The 50-50 controversy

by | Feb 11, 2022 | coronavirus | 1 comment

Dr. Michael Bitzer, the political scientist from Catawba College, posted interesting numbers on Twitter yesterday. Bitzer totaled up the results from all the 2020 statewide races in North Carolina and found the vote favored Republicans 50.9% to 49.1%. That would make North Carolina a lean Republican state, but a very evenly divided one. 

I think Bitzer’s post is in response to an argument started by an article written by Andy Jackson of the Locke Foundation who states that North Carolina is not a 50-50 state. He cites the website 538 that gives the state an R+4.8 lean. He also notes that Civitas uses the results of Council of State races to give Republicans a 50.08-49.2 advantage. That’s pretty close to Bitzer’s numbers. 

For grins, I totaled up the statewide races in 2018. All were judicial races. Democrats got a total of 50.001% of the votes cast and Republicans got 49.999%. It doesn’t get much closer than that. 

I’ll concede that North Carolina today leans very slightly Republican, but it is still highly competitive. In 2020 and 2016, Donald Trump drove voters out in numbers not seen in recent history. We don’t know what will drive voters out in 2022, but we can speculate that opposition to the party in power will be a major factor. It always is in midterm elections. 

Still, the debate over whether the state is a 50-50 state isn’t happening in a vacuum. The debate has to do with the redistricting controversy that’s dominating political news yet again. Democrats want districts that reflect the political lean of the state. Republicans argue that the legislature has the power to act anyway it wants and they’ve decried the interference of the courts as partisan hackery.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that the gerrymandered districts Republicans drew are extreme. Even Jackson notes that if district seats reflect vote totals, Congressional districts would be split 8-6 in favor of Republicans, not 11-3 as the districts were drawn. There’s no doubt that districts so skewed would leave a disproportionate number of voters without a representative voice in a representative democracy. 

Republicans who are attacking the court on Twitter or elsewhere ignore that, in redistricting, the court is the only check on the legislature’s power. The constitution cuts the executive branch out of the process. The Founding Fathers established a system based on checks and balances. Without the court in North Carolina, there would be no checks, just unrestrained legislative power. That’s authoritarianism.

I don’t believe that our Congressional or legislative districts should be drawn to guarantee an even split that reflects the state, but I do believe they should ensure that people have at least a chance to have their voices heard. That demands competitive district across North Carolina, not rigging the system to ensure unfettered power for one party. 

So are we a 50-50 state? Who cares, but we are certainly not a solidly Republican one.

1 Comment

  1. cocodog

    Unaffiliated voters can in NC decide to vote for either candidate in legislative primary races. A left leaning friend of mine once said he voted for the weakest Republican hoping in the primary his vote would help push this candidate into the final race. The notion being the Democrat would stand a better chance of winning. I never really understood his logic as

    Republicans generally line up in obedient queues to vote for their candidate in primaries and the final election.
    Anyway, back to the unaffiliated voter. (A Political Wildcard) There seems to be more and more of them emerging each election year. For the most part they were former Republicans driven away from traditional conservatism by the shenanigans of Trump, Ron Paul and now this David Madison Cawthorn . I wonder how utilitarian the figures presented by the professor are when there a large group of voters out there who could swing an election by just showing up and voting.

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