Two maps appear above. The current one is a major problem. The proposed one is a simple solution.
The current map of North Carolina’s congressional districts is the 2011 handiwork of the Republican-controlled General Assembly. It is a portrait of gerrymandering. As can be seen by the maps of the 1st and the 12th districts, district lines were contorted to generate the maximum number of districts that would favor Republican candidates.
The districts lack proportion, but they are drawn with computer-assisted precision and they produced the intended results. When the maps were first used for the 2012 election, the balance of the North Carolina delegation flipped from a 7-6 Democratic majority to a 9-4 Republican majority. After 2014, it became 10-3 Republican.
Gerrymandering has long been part of politics, but computer programs and consultants who specialize in redistricting have raised it to extreme levels. It has warped districts across the nation in a way in which districts are so safe officeholders need not worry about winning votes from the other party or many independents. That has fed polarization and gridlock in Congress. When it’s applied at the state level, as it has been in North Carolina, it creates lopsided party majorities that can pursue a radical agenda without consequences at the polls.
Now, in the spirit of showing how redistricting — which has to be done after every Census to adjust for population demographics — should and can be done, Duke University and Common Cause North Carolina got ten retired judges and justices to work on a new map (the proposed version above). They came up with districts that are orderly in formation, balanced as they must be in population, and would end up being Republican-dominant in six districts, likely Democratic in four, and political toss-ups in three.
This was an inspired, bipartisan effort and a laudable result. These districts make sense. The boundaries coincided with city and county boundaries, and that there few divisions within counties.
Redistricting should be done by a nonpartisan commission. This has worked elsewhere, and it puts the people, not the self-interest of political parties, first.