N.C. Dealing With Chaos After Ruling That Districts Are Illegal Partisan Gerrymanders
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
All of North Carolina's 13 congressional districts must be redrawn. That was the unanimous ruling yesterday from three federal judges. They found the districts are illegal partisan gerrymanders created by Republicans to favor their own candidates. As Tom Bullock of member station WFAE reports, there are questions about what this ruling means in an election year.
TOM BULLOCK, BYLINE: North Carolina's congressional candidates can officially file to run just one month from now. That date is important if the state is to hold its May 8 primary on schedule. North Carolina's Republican-controlled General Assembly has been given just two weeks to redraw all the state's congressional districts.
And lawmakers did meet in special session today. Yet, congressional redistricting wasn't even on the agenda. And North Carolina's State Board of Election could not comment on the case. They have been a board in name only since June of last year thanks to an ongoing fight between the Democratic governor and the Republican legislature.
All of this may mean North Carolina voters are in for a chaotic election season. The only thing that is clear is that the map is politically gerrymandered - and that is by design. Republican Representative David Lewis freely admitted that back in 2016 when he co-chaired the committee which drew these districts.
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DAVID LEWIS: I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it's possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.
BULLOCK: His fellow Republicans giggled. The federal judges were not similarly amused. And when you run the numbers on the 2016 congressional election, you can see why. Michael Bitzer is a political scientist with Catawba College.
MICHAEL BITZER: So 2.4 million ballots were cast for Republican congressional candidates across North Carolina compared to 2.1 million for democrats, and that basically breaks to a 53-47 split.
BULLOCK: Yet, 10 Republicans were elected to the House of Representatives to just three Democrats. This disparity was cited time and again in yesterday's ruling, which Republicans say they will appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. For NPR News, I'm Tom Bullock in Charlotte. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.