On February 4 the Supreme Court ordered the Assembly to pass legislative redistricting maps by Friday the 18th. The Court has essentially required proportionality as the measure of redistricting, using mean-median difference analysis, efficiency gap analysis, close votes and seats analyses, and partisan symmetry analysis. These are statistical ways of determining whether redistricting gives too much advantage to one party. 

I have some limited sympathy with those presenting these new ideas. The last election under legislative maps prepared by Democrats were drawn in 2004. Democrats secured a 63-57 House majority. Of the total votes in 2004 for House candidates, 52% went to Republicans, 44% to Democrats and 4% to Libertarians. I operated under those maps for six years. In 2010 using Democrat drawn maps the NC House GOP picked up 16 seats to secure a 68 seat majority.

There will be consequences under these new rules. There is no reason that this entirely new constitutional interpretation would not apply to units of local government as well. The Wake County Commission includes seven Democrats and no Republicans. Should Wake County immediately be redistricted for 2022? Republicans would likely win three seats. The converse would be true in other counties.

The resulting legislative maps will be deeply disappointing to long time opponents of the gerrymander. Governor Gerry may feel vindicated. Much of the argument against gerrymandering has been illustrated by maps shaped like insects. Voters find it difficult to know their representatives. Representatives find it difficult to provide constituent services. This new constitutional result will be difficult to achieve without violating traditional neutral redistricting criteria. The maps thrown out on February 4 broke up fewer counties and precincts than before. They “looked good.” The final maps for the elections in 2022 will look worse. For examples from the past see:

https://www.nchouserepublicans.com/2022/01/20/decade-of-double-standards/

The Court did not address the question whether proportionality is required within large counties. The maps that were used for the 2020 elections entitled Wake County to 16 legislative seats. Republicans only elected one member, Erin Paré, to the House and no one to the Senate. Under this entirely new proportionality analysis Republicans should have occupied about six legislative seats in Wake County. Is that what the Court envisions?

It is ironic that under the 2019 Court order that resulted in the 2020 GOP majorities under the 2021 maps that were thrown out last week, and under most reform proposals, the use of partisan data was limited to what legislators had stored in their brains. The Supreme Court’s completely new constitutional analysis REQUIRES the Assembly to use detailed partisan data. The future will be interesting.

The writer was a member of the House for 16 years, the last ten as Republican Leader (minority and majority) and Speaker Pro Tem. He authorized or introduced six Redistricting Reform bills, beginning in 1989.

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