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Redistricting decision in North Carolina could be a big win for Republicans in Congress

A redistricting decision in North Carolina has created a possible electoral windfall for Congressional Republicans by preserving their majority in the US House next year, saying judges should stay out of the boundary review. seats for partisan advantage.

While Democrats only need to flip five GOP seats to regain control, experts say the state Supreme Court’s decision means that the state’s four Democratic incumbents — including three members for the first times – are vulnerable.

Meanwhile, disputes involving congressional maps in states including Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Ohio and Texas could also rework district lines and change the 2024 election map.

Legal safeguards on redistricting are in an unusual state of flux. State and federal courts have both actively overturned congressional maps in the most recent bonanza of redrawing legislative lines based on once-a-decade census data. Further action by the United States Supreme Court in the coming weeks could trigger new challenges and redrawn maps.

North Carolina’s highest court, elected in partisan elections, became Republican in November. This new Republican majority in late April rejected a 2022 Democratic ruling against partisan gerrymandering, saying the state constitution did not limit the practice.

The state map, created after last year’s court ruling, was used last fall when voters elected seven Democrats and seven Republicans. North Carolina’s statewide races are regularly close, with voter registrations making up about one-third among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated residents. Just four years earlier, Republicans had comfortably won 10 of 13 House seats in the nation’s ninth-largest state.

Freed from Democratic constraints, the General Assembly – also controlled by Republicans – is considering redrawing these districts ahead of the 2024 election.

“It’s a signal to the Republican supermajority that within certain limits they can draw whatever maps they want,” said Chris Cooper, professor of political science at Western Carolina University. “Republicans don’t have a blank check, but there’s plenty in the bank account.”


While North Carolina Republicans don’t yet have details on what the new maps will look like, House Speaker Tim Moore said after last year’s election that “7-7 doesn’t reflect not the will of the voters of North Carolina”. A map approved by Republicans in 2021, but never implemented because invalidated, would have given the GOP a strong chance of winning 10 seats. North Carolina won a 14th seat this decade thanks to population growth.

North Carolina’s decision “could have a huge impact on House oversight,” said Dave Wasserman, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. A map that tears into districts of at least four Democrats would “effectively double the Republican cushion” by next year, he said.

State Democrats have few options. The state constitution exempts redistricting legislation from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto.

Rep. Wiley Nickel speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, November 14, 2022. A recent redistricting decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court could help Republicans seeking to retain control of Congress next year . Experts say four current Democratic incumbents are vulnerable when state lawmakers draw a new map later this year. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

“Hopefully they … won’t be as extreme as the courts seem to have given them leeway,” said Democratic Sen. Natasha Marcus. “But I’m also a realist.”

With the exception of federal laws preventing racial gerrymandering and other redistricting standards — such as making districts identical based on population — the legislature will have free rein.

“If you want to maximize your power, you’re going to attract all the districts required by the Voting Rights Act and you’re going to engage in the most partisan gerrymandering possible,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California. , Los Angeles, which tracks redistricting and election disputes.


Based on previous interviews and maps, one of the most vulnerable Democrats is expected to be first-term Rep. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte. Even though he won the new 14th congressional district by 15 percentage points, there are plenty of ways to make the district more Republican.

“They’re coming for this seat,” Jackson, a former state senator who rose to prominence using TikTok to reach voters, said in a fundraising email.

First-term Rep. Wiley Nickel, who represents the Raleigh-area 13th District, is also at risk. He won the state’s lone coin race in 2022 by 3 percentage points.

Nickel told The Associated Press that the Supreme Court’s decision was “pure partisan politics” and called the 2022 limits “an absolutely fair map for a 50-50 state.”

Other Democrats at risk are 6th District Rep. Kathy Manning, who represents the Greensboro area, and first-term Rep. Don Davis, who represents nearly 20 northeastern North Carolina counties in the 1st District.

Over the previous decade, Republicans in North Carolina enjoyed a significant advantage in the way congressional districts were drawn, even as courts repeatedly ordered new maps due to gerrymandering. In 2016 and 2018, Republicans won between two and three more seats than might have been expected based on their share of the vote, according to an AP analysis using a mathematical formula designed to detect gerrymandering. .

In 2020, when the Republicans won an 8-5 advantage in Congress, the GOP still had one more seat than expected based on their votes.


But that changed with the 2022 election. Republicans won 52% of the vote, but Democrats edged them out – with 0.6 seats more than expected based on their vote share, according to the analysis of the report. ‘AP.

Nationally, Democrats are pushing back against the idea that losses in North Carolina are inevitable. Their candidates have already shown they can win in tight ridings, said Tommy Garcia, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional campaign committee.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Congressional Committee “looks forward to the state legislature drawing fair lines that best represent North Carolina,” communications director Jack Pandol said.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down a ruling soon that could change rules requiring mapmakers to draw districts that allow minorities to elect representatives of their choosing.

The High Court is also hearing a case brought by Republicans in North Carolina who argued that state courts lacked the power to implement the map that produced the 7-7 split in the Congress last year. However, the judges’ decision will not affect the upcoming draw for the card in North Carolina.


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