Why are North Carolina Voters Chosen by the Politicians Instead of the Other Way Around?

When voters choose members for the U.S. House of Representatives, they should decide who comprises that congressional delegation. This is not the case in North Carolina, where the Republican state legislature has heavily gerrymandered the map in their favor. The North Carolina GOP enacted this map on November 4, 2021.

Gerrymandering is when one political party either holds control of the state legislature, governorship or draws the congressional, statehouse, and state Senate maps to preserve or expand a party’s political majorities in those areas. There are two methods of attaining a successful gerrymander: Packing and Cracking.

The packing method is when voters are packed into a congressional or legislative district that mainly houses a majority of one party. In congressional maps, frequent examples include packing liberal voters into small urban districts and conservative voters into many rural districts. The cracking method is the separation of voters through multiple districts where the governing party outnumbers the minority party. 

The drawing of maps occurs a year after the nationwide census. The Federal Government counts the number of people in the country to determine congressional districts. The deadline for the state legislatures or other methods like nonpartisan commissions to finish their maps is six months before the election.

Gerrymandering is an easy and quick way to meet this deadline. In the recently passed map for the next decade, the North Carolina politicians significantly gerrymandered the state to favor them. For example, they picked up a seat in CD 11 by putting Republican Congresswoman Virginia Fox in the same district as House freshman congresswomen Democrat Kathy Manning. The gerrymandering in this district is putting all of Fox’s republican counties in one district and putting Manning’s home in the same area. 

The rest of her blue counties are cracked between this district and retiring Republican Congressman Ted Budd’s seat. They also made it harder for Democratic Congressman G.K. Butterfield to win reelection by transforming his once likely Democratic seat into a swing seat by adding a bunch of red counties from Budd and retiring Democratic Congressman David Price’s seat, according to the map on Five Thirty-Eight’s page on North Carolina Redistricting.

Five Thirty-Eight’s current Congressional District map for North Carolina from 2021 – 2023.

The previous map for the 2020 election was drawn after the one put in place in 2017 was too favorable to the Republicans. According to the map from Five Thirty-Eight, the GOP only slightly changed the map by netting two urban and suburban seats for the Democrats in Raleigh and Greensboro, one of which is going back to Republicans in Kathy Manning’s seat. Though not an even split like liberal activists wanted, it was much better than the 10-4 congressional map since it was an 8-6 map. 

The impact of this gerrymandering on the 2022 election cycle for North Carolina, an evenly divided state, is that half of the state does not get adequately represented. While the Republicans are given the majority in the congressional delegation that they would not represent as they are a plurality in the state. This will likely result in the party gaining Kathy Manning’s seat and two open seats, CD 7 and CD 13. If you want our country to be less polarized and more united, gerrymandering has made your goal less of a reality.