Political data released by state lawmakers Monday shows voting patterns in proposed N.C. General Assembly districts.
Most of the proposed districts lean Republican, similar to the current makeup of the General Assembly, where Republicans hold supermajorities in both the state House and Senate. Lawmakers drew new districts after courts ruled that the current maps, drawn in 2011, are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.
President Donald Trump would have won 33 of the 50 proposed Senate districts and 76 of the 120 proposed House districts. Statewide last year, Republican nominee Trump won 49.9 percent of the vote to 46.1 percent for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, would have won 18 of the 50 Senate districts and 47 of the 120 House districts. Cooper narrowly unseated Republican Pat McCrory last year, 49 percent to 48.9 percent statewide.
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Many of the districts will likely be uncompetitive in next year’s elections. That’s not a change from recent history; in 2016 nearly half of all General Assembly races were uncontested, which activists have blamed on gerrymandering.
The numbers released Monday show that just 10 of the 50 Senate districts will likely be competitive next year – those are the only districts in which either Trump or Clinton would have won by single digits. Seven of the competitive districts lean Republican and the other three lean Democratic. On the other hand, a handful of districts would have seen presidential results as lopsided as a 70-30 split.
Just 19 of the 120 House districts are competitive by that measure, including 12 that lean to Republicans and seven that lean to Democrats.
Several legislators will be double-bunked if the new maps pass, meaning two incumbents will have to run against each other unless one drops out or moves to another district. There are also several open districts where no current incumbent lives, which could provide openings to political newcomers around the state.
There are four open House districts. Two of them (one in Pitt and the other in Chatham and Durham counties) are Democratic areas, and two (one in Guilford and the other in Craven and Beaufort counties) are Republican.
There are also four open Senate districts. One (in Wake County) is strongly Democratic, one (covering 11 northeastern counties) leans Republican, and two (one in Stanly and Rowan and one in Iredell and Yadkin counties) are strongly Republican.
Some incumbents have uphill climb
A few Republican incumbents would be placed in new, Democratic-leaning districts.
Sen. Jeff Tarte of Mecklenburg County and Sen. Rick Horner of Wilson County would represent districts that voted for Clinton in 2016. Horner’s district is especially unfavorable; 58 percent of the vote there last year went to Clinton. Tarte’s is more of a tossup; Clinton beat Trump in that district by 49-45.
Another GOP senator, Bill Cook, faces a tough challenge – he would be double-bunked with a Democratic incumbent, Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, in a northeastern district that would’ve supported Clinton 53-45.
In the Charlotte area, two GOP House members (Andy Dulin and Scott Stone) will find themselves in districts that narrowly supported Clinton over Trump. Nearby in Rowan and Cabarrus counties, two other Republican incumbents (Larry Pittman and Carl Ford) will be double-bunked in a pro-Trump district.
And Republican Rep. Jeff Collins of Nash County was placed in a district that went for Clinton over Trump by eight points. In nearby Wilson County, Republican Rep. Susan Martin is double-bunked with a Democratic incumbent, Jean Farmer-Butterfield, in another close district that supported Clinton, 52-46.
Across the aisle, Sen. Angela Bryant of Nash County would see the tables turned against her. She would be moved to a new district that went for Trump by a margin of 56-40.
Three House Democrats would be in districts that supported Trump by a whopping 17 points or more: Ken Goodman (Richmond County), William Brisson (Bladen County) and Bobbie Richardson (Nash County).
Several other Democrats landed in pro-Trump districts that were much closer, including two Asheville representatives (Brian Turner and John Ager) as well as George Graham in Lenoir County and Robert Reives II in Lee County.
Reives would be double-bunked with Republican Rep. John Sauls but has said he wants to keep representing Chatham County, which would be moved to a safely Democratic district with no incumbent under the new maps.
How to comment
Nine of the state’s 50 Senate districts were deemed unconstitutional, along with 19 House districts.
Three federal judges who ruled the 2011 districts weakened the overall influence of black voters have ordered new maps drawn, approved and delivered to the court by Sept. 1.
The public will be allowed to formally comment on the proposed lines Tuesday afternoon. There are several meetings set up across the state where people can attend and weigh in.
They’ll be held on six different community college campuses – Beaufort (Washington), Caldwell (Hudson), Central Piedmont (Charlotte), Fayetteville Tech (Fayetteville), Guilford Tech (Jamestown) and Halifax (Weldon). There will also be a hearing in Raleigh, in room 643 of the Legislative Office Building.
All of those hearings Tuesday start at 4 p.m. People who can’t make it to one of those meetings can also submit online comments on the General Assembly website.
Legislators voted earlier this month to allow political considerations to be used in drawing the new maps, despite the protests of Democratic legislators – who objected to that rule and several others that GOP lawmakers backed.
Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC, was critical of mapmakers for using data about previous elections to shape the new district lines. For years, Common Cause has been an advocate for nonpartisan redistricting.
“North Carolina lawmakers had a golden opportunity this month to adopt fair, nonpartisan standards for drawing new legislative voting districts. Instead, they opted for politics as usual, keeping partisanship at the core of a deeply flawed redistricting process,” Phillips wrote in a post on the organization’s website. “...We the people deserve better. We deserve fairness, rather than partisan political games, on something as important as the creation of our congressional and legislative districts.”
“We worked long hours trying to abide by the criteria,” state Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican who co-chairs the legislature’s joint redistricting committee, said on Saturday. “I in no way am saying they’re perfect. I hope my colleagues will engage so we can improve the maps further.”
The lines were drawn by Tom Hofeller, a GOP consultant who was paid $50,000 by the state’s Republican lawmakers to redraw the state’s legislative districts. Hofeller drew the 2011 lines found unconstitutional, too.
As of this month, about 39 percent of North Carolina voters are Democrats, 30 percent are Republicans and 30 percent are unaffiliated. The data released Monday contains election results but not voter registration data.
Staff writer Anne Blythe contributed to this report.
The proposed maps put four legislators in districts that voted for one party in the presidential race and the opposite party in the gubernatorial race.
Senate District 9 in New Hanover County, home to Republican state Sen. Michael Lee, would’ve gone for Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Roy Cooper.
House District 98, home to Republican Mecklenburg County Rep. John Bradford, would’ve voted for Trump and Cooper.
House District 105, home to Republican Mecklenburg County Rep. Scott Stone, would’ve gone for Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Pat McCrory.
House District 115, home to Democratic Buncombe County Rep. John Ager, would’ve voted for Trump and Cooper.