What WRAL Gets Wrong About North Carolina’s Congressional Districts

WRAL recently came out with an editorial on Moore v. Harper, a United States Supreme Court case on who gets to draw North Carolina’s congressional districts.

The editorial started with this gem:

In January, when North Carolina’s U.S. House of Representatives members take their seats, the delegation will reflect the people of state [sic] it represents more than probably anytime in history.

And later:

That is, as much as anytime in North Carolina, what the new congressional delegation will look like. Half of the 14 representatives are Republicans and half are Democrats. Looking at the total votes cast in congressional elections, Republicans got slightly more than 50% of the votes and Democrats got slightly less than 49%. About an even split.

WRAL starts with a false construct. Leaving aside the fact that “about an even split” is not an even split, legislative districts are not simply a means of distributing aggregated statewide votes. I already dealt with this idea of using redistricting to fulfill a goal of backdoor proportional representation several years ago:

Legislative districts are about their local communities, not the state. Those drawing maps should take care to consider the local communities represented by those districts. Those local interests should not be subsumed by statewide considerations.

Specifically, local districts should not be drawn to satisfy statewide proportionality goals, thereby creating a backdoor proportional representation system.

North Carolina’s current, court-drawn congressional map is a “Democratic protection plan” designed to spare them from an expected red wave election. That red wave materialized, with Republicans sweeping every statewide election and nearly gaining supermajorities in the General Assembly. The 7-7 congressional split is an outlier.

The court-appointed special masters who drew the congressional map created that 7-7 split with two classic gerrymandering maneuvers. First, they split Charlotte in half. Second, they cut out the most Democratic part of Raleigh and used it to transform an otherwise Republican-leaning district into one friendlier to Democratic candidates.

The plaintiffs’ own expert witness in the case that resulted in the court-drawn map testified that the most likely outcome in a congressional map drawn using politically neutral criteria is Republicans favored in nine districts and Democrats favored in five (see page 33).

If WRAL gets that part of their editorial so wrong, I hold out little hope that the rest of it will be right.