Time to Motivate Tar Heels to Register and Vote
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek the speakership again, has, as expected, chosen to run in the new 14th US House District—a district drawn just for him by his fellow legislators.
The new congressional maps, redrawn by the Republicans after the state Supreme Court flipped in 2022 from a Democratic majority to a Republican one, will replace those drawn just two years ago after the same state court—with different justices—ruled that previous Republican maps were illegally gerrymandered under the NC Constitution.
The backstory is simple: in 2011, the first year following the 2010 census, Republicans gained control of the state legislature for the first time in decades. They quickly drew redistricting maps that favored them at all levels, from their own legislative seats to Congress. Over the next six years Democrats and good government groups sued repeatedly in state and federal court, and won each time, requiring the maps to be redrawn for almost every election cycle.
During that era one leading Republican legislator acknowledged that, despite the even split among parties in the state, they drew maps to elect 10 Republicans and three Democrats only because they couldn’t figure out how to make it 11 to 2.
After the 2020 census—with the GOP still holding legislative majorities and NC gaining a US House seat—the state Supreme Court not only ruled their maps unconstitutional, but also imposed maps drawn by a nonpartisan master. And, following that experiment in actual democracy, the Congressional delegation elected by the citizens of North Carolina constituted seven Democrats and seven Republicans, almost perfectly reflecting the distribution of votes in the state: 47.5% for Democratic candidates, 52.5% for Republicans. That split similarly reflected the 3-3-3 division of the state’s electorate in 2022:
- 2,495,097 or 34%, were registered Democratic;
- 2,221,179 or 30%, were registered Republican; and
- 2,637,581 or 36%, were registered Unaffiliated;
- 50,511 or 0.7% were registered to another party.
The unaffiliated voters split evenly between the two main parties in their voting patterns.
Change the Court, Change the Rules
But in the 2022 election, Republican candidates gained control of the NC Supreme Court. In an unprecedented move, the Court’s new majority decided—following the reasoning of the US Supreme Court—that what mattered was not the meaning of the Constitution but the political affiliation of the justices. So they “revisited” a case decided less than a year before as a way to overturn their predecessors’ ruling.
To no one’s surprise, the five Republicans on the Court voted unanimously in favor of their fellow partisans in the legislature. (Despite widespread calls to recuse himself, one member of the Court, the son of the Senate majority leader, voted in favor of his father’s position.) And this time, the legislature drew a brand-new district tailored to fit the needs of the Speaker of the House, Tim Moore, who wants a promotion to Congress (following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Thom Tillis).
52% v. 79%
Meanwhile, in order to revert to their avowed belief that winning 52% of the statewide vote entitles Republicans to 71% or even 79% of our representatives in Congress—that is, 10 or even 11 of the state’s 14 districts—the new maps are so highly gerrymandered that, in spite of state law requiring counties to remain together wherever possible, nearly every major county in NC is split into at least two districts.
Sen. Warren Daniel, who represents parts of Buncombe, noted proudly that the new district maps would place 97.8% of mostly Democratic Black Mountain (pop. 8,502) into the new Tim Moore district. That will remove 9% of Buncombe County’s voters without making any difference to the 150,000 Republican voters in District 14. In other words, their votes won’t count at all.
Similarly, 83.9% of more conservative Montreat will go into the 11th District, thus turning the Asheville-Buncombe County electorate less blue (benefiting Republican Chuck Edwards) while even further minimizing the likelihood of a Democrat winning there.
Cracking and Packing
The maps have been widely criticized by Democrats and redistricting reform groups, and more lawsuits are likely. Much of the statewide gerrymandering has split up largely Black cities such as Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem, and Fayetteville. For example, a large proportion of Greensboro’s Black voters will be dispersed into Virginia Foxx’s deeply red, rural district that runs along the Virginia border.
Packing as many Black voters as possible into one district, and dispersing other minority voters into numerous conservative, primarily white districts, has long been a way to dilute the value of minority voters. It’s called “cracking and packing,” and in Wikipedia’s definition, “The manipulation may involve “cracking” (diluting the voting power of the opposing party’s supporters across many districts) or “packing” (concentrating the opposing party’s voting power in one district to reduce their voting power in other districts).
It’s now the tried-and true method of Republicans with their 30% minority of registered voters in the state—at the expense of the majority (36% Independents, 34% Democrats). Black Mountain Mayor Mike Sobol, a Democrat elected on a nonpartisan basis, called the redistricting plans “a continuation of the fraud.”
Watch for more lawsuits to be filed, not just by Democrats, but by other groups of voters who—unlike Republicans—actually believe in democracy.