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The 2022 midterm elections are the first of the Biden era. They're also the first since the 2020 census, which means there are new congressional districts. There are U.S. Senate races in the Carolinas as well, along with many state and local races.

NC Republicans have drawn gerrymandered maps, but other states are considered worse

A proposed Congressional map drawn by GOP Sen. Ralph Hise would give Republicans the advantage in 11 of 14 seats.
Princeton Gerrymandering Project
A proposed congressional map drawn by GOP Sen. Ralph Hise would give Republicans the advantage in 11 of 14 seats.

North Carolina lawmakers are expected to approve a congressional map next week, along with new maps for the state House and Senate.

The state is getting an additional member of Congress, bringing the number of representatives in the House to 14.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project ran a computer simulation of 1 million North Carolina congressional maps and found the most common scenario would produce a Republican advantage in 8 of 14 seats. Democrats would be favored in six seats.

Here’s how the organization has graded the maps that are under consideration before a likely final vote in the General Assembly next week.

Democratic map by Sen. Ben Clark (7-7 tie): A

Democratic map by Sen. Ben Clark (8-6 GOP advantage): A

Democratic map by Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (8-6 GOP advantage): A

Republican map by Sen. Ralph Hise (11-3 GOP advantage): F

Republican map by Sen. Warren Daniel (10-4 GOP advantage): F

Republican map by Rep. Destin Hall (9-5 GOP advantage): C

The Democratic maps are more fair according to the organization, but they won’t be approved by the Republican-controlled legislature. And Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper can’t veto the new maps.

The big question is whether GOP lawmakers go with the Daniel map that gives them a 10-4 advantage or the more moderate Hall map that gives them the edge in 9 of 14 seats. (The 11-3 map could be used in court to show that Republicans could have enacted a more severe gerrymander.)

Adam Podowitz-Thomas, a legal strategist with the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, said political parties across the country are looking to maximize their political footprint in every state. Democrats have a small, eight-member majority in the U.S. House.

He said the Hise and Daniel maps are bad gerrymanders. But he said there are worse gerrymanders nationwide, most notably in Texas and Illinois.

In Texas, Republicans passed a map that gives the GOP the advantage in 25 of 38 congressional seats.

In Illinois, Democrats have proposed a map that gives them the advantage in 14 of 17 seats.

“You know it’s probably hard for me to decide whether Texas or Illinois are the more egregious,” Podowitz-Thomas said. “They are both really non-compact. Just very much drawing lines that look that they are trying to pick up single neighborhoods. They both look like egregious gerrymanders from our perspective.”

If North Carolina Republicans approve a 11-3 or a 10-4 map, it’s likely Democratic-aligned groups or other outside groups will sue the legislature, just as they did repeatedly last decade after the GOP drew maps after the 2010 census.

Redistricting in North Carolina
WFAE's politics reporter Steve Harrison talks with "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn about redistricting in North Carolina and potential gerrymandered maps.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee is led by Eric Holder, the attorney general under former President Barack Obama. It has already sued in Texas for that state’s congressional map.

“We are fighting for fair maps that reflect the will of the voters, and if Republicans attempt to ignore this and gerrymander their way to power, we will be ready to sue,” NDRC president Kelly Burton said.

The NDRC has declined to challenge the Illinois map, even though it tilts the state’s congressional delegation heavily in favor of Democrats. In the 2020 election, Joe Biden won Illinois with 57% of the vote to Donald Trump’s 40%. The proposed congressional map gives Democrats the edge in more than 80% of the seats.

The group Common Cause NC sued the state last decade over its political maps. Bob Phillips, the group’s executive director, declined to say whether it would sue over the latest maps.

“There are certainly a lot of concerns being raised and you hate to think about litigation,” Phillips said. “You would hope, again, that there would be a process that could support a better outcome of maps that are more fair. I know 7-7 is probably not a fair map because maybe that’s an impossible map to draw without again violating the criteria and rules, But 11-3 is definitely not a fair map, in my opinion.”

He said it’s likely the 2022 election will be held under the maps passed this year, even if there is litigation.

“Literally every election last decade except for the last one were run on maps that were ultimately found unconstitutional,” he said. “It takes a while for the courts to catch up.”

Cooper said this week that the proposed maps “don’t look fair.”

That prompted criticism from Republicans, who noted that he voted for gerrymandered maps when he was a state senator in the 1990s.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.