If you thought North Carolina was finally out of its gerrymandering journey, think again.
RepresentUS, a nonprofit fighting corruption in local and state politics, has released a new report that forecasts how likely each state will gerrymander its voting districts when new maps are drawn this year following the release of 2020 census data.
Twenty-seven states are at “extreme risk” of having its districts gerrymandered by the political party in power, according to the report. North Carolina is one of them.
All of this comes as the U.S. Census Bureau on Monday released the results of its 2020 population estimates, which resulted in North Carolina gaining a 14th congressional seat. Florida, Texas, Oregon, Colorado, and Montana also gained seats.
The risk assessment is based on five subcategories, including who draws the maps, how they’re drawn, and whether it’s possible to challenge them in court. By this criteria, Virginia is the only Southern state to be at low risk of gerrymandering, thanks to a recent referendum that created an independent commission to draw maps.
North Carolina has three major problems, and—shocker—they all stem from the General Assembly. North Carolina legislators only need to get a majority vote in both the House and the Senate to approve a voting map. The governor (who is historically Democrat) does not have veto power over the maps drawn by the legislature. There’s no requirement that redistricting be done publicly or that the public be involved in the process (although the legislature has allowed this the last two times the maps were redrawn).
The state fares better in its standards for creating districts and on how easy it is to challenge these maps through the justice system. The state’s long battle over bad maps came to a pause in late 2019, when a three-person judicial panel approved new voting districts for the 2020 election.
State House Democrats recently filed a bill to combat partisan gerrymandering in the state, but it’s unlikely to get traction in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, where GOP lawmakers hold the power to draw districts that favor their reelection. At the federal level, eight of the state’s 13 congressional seats are held by Republicans.
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