Retired state judges and justices who experimented with drawing the state’s congressional districts without regard to voters’ party registration have produced a plan that creates a few districts where candidates of either party would have a chance to win. The redistricting simulation, a project of Duke University and Common Cause North Carolina, aims to show one way the state’s 13 congressional districts could look if drawn without political considerations. It includes six likely Republican districts, four likely Democratic districts, and three toss-ups, the sponsors said. The experiment produced results strikingly different from the districts legislators approved this year. Legislative Republicans drew the existing congressional map to elect 10 Republicans and 3 Democrats. No district is considered competitive. Common Cause is suing over the current congressional map, claiming that extreme partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution.
The redistricting exercise with Duke is separate from the lawsuit, said Common Cause North Carolina executive director Bob Phillips. The group will use the map “to help the public understand there is a better way,” he said. “This experiment is a good demonstration on how it can be done.”
Common Cause has pushed for years for a law establishing an independent redistricting commission, but has never had a bill pass both House and Senate. The legislature must draw new congressional and legislative districts at least once every decade, and the party in power uses redistricting to protect or expand its majority.
The state’s voting districts face near-constant legal challenges. This year, federal judges have declared congressional and legislative districts unconstitutional. Wake County commissioner and school board districts the legislature drew were also declared unconstitutional this year.