Feb. 22, 2016 — Last week, the North Carolina state Senate passed a new congressional map, responding to a court-ordered directive to remedy what a three-judge federal panel determined to be an illegal draw in Districts 1 (Rep. G.K. Butterfield-D) and 12 (Rep. Alma Adams-D). The lines were struck down just 39 days before the state’s primary election.
The resulting map, constructed and passed within a 14-day period, is substantially different from the current map. It pairs one set of incumbents, likely causes two Republican House members to square-off in a primary election, eliminates an African-American district, makes several of the 10 Republican districts more competitive, and calls upon the Board of Elections to re-schedule the congressional primary election while nomination contests for all other offices proceed as scheduled on March 15.
Since the court in its ruling about the two original African-American majority districts declared there is no evidence of polarized voting in North Carolina, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act does not apply. Therefore, the Republican map drawers took the opportunity to break up the famous “I-85 district” that traveled from Charlotte up Interstate 85 to capture predominately black precincts in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and at one time, as far away as Durham. Greensboro’s Rep. Adams’ 12th District that the court invalidated is now eliminated. Adams will find herself in a new Republican-leaning 13th District, while the new 12th is fully contained within Mecklenburg County and will probably elect a white Democrat from Charlotte.
In Raleigh, Rep. George Holding (R) is placed in Democratic Rep. David Price’s (D) 4th District, which will be safely Democratic. This means Holding will likely run against Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) in the new 2nd District, which contains large pockets of both current constituencies.
In the Charlotte area, Rep. Bob Pittenger’s (R) 9th District transforms from a Charlotte-Mecklenburg County seat into one that begins in the congressman’s home city, but stretches along the South Carolina border all the way to Fayetteville. This seat becomes more competitive for Pittenger both in the primary and general elections.
The new plan is uniform in that 87 of the 100 counties are left whole within a congressional district. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has no veto on redistricting legislation.
The US Supreme Court could potentially stay the newly enacted map. The stand-alone congressional primary will likely occur during some point between June and August, with time remaining for a run-off contest where necessary.