The new map for North Carolina congressional districts is settled — for now. And though some people may consider the latest revision an improvement, it’s still not nearly as fair as it ought to be and it shouldn’t be the final word.
After the 2020 election, good-government groups and North Carolina residents should continue to work for a better, more equitable map.
On Monday, a panel of three state judges upheld the redrawn map, drafted by state legislators under court order, thus allowing the candidate filing period to begin. With primary elections set for March 3, the State Board of Elections had requested a timely resolution by mid-December.
“As a practical matter, in the court’s view there is simply not sufficient time to fully evaluate the factual record necessary to decide the constitutional challenges of the congressional districts without significantly delaying the primary elections,” Judge Paul Ridgeway said. “It is time for the citizens to vote.”
So the judges ruled with one eye on a looming deadline.
Or, as N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin put it, “North Carolina Republicans yet again run out the clock on fair maps, denying justice to North Carolina voters and forcing our state to go another election using undemocratic district lines.”
The redrawn districts are better than the previous ones, but the are not nearly as balanced and competitive as they should be. Republicans and Democrats are roughly equal in number in North Carolina, but there will still be a Republican advantage, thanks to the party’s success with gerrymandering over the last decade. Ten of the 13 U.S. House seats belonged to solid Republican districts before the map was redrawn. Political analysts say the new map is likely to shift the outcome to eight solid Republican and five solid Democrat districts, with the 2nd and 6th districts flipping blue.
The 2nd Congressional District is entirely in Wake County. The 6th District, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican, has been redrawn to lean more Democratic. It now covers most of Winston-Salem, half of Kernersville and all of Guilford County, which makes Walker’s re-election a much more difficult proposition.
So he is keeping his options open. Walker may run again in the 6th or challenge an incumbent in the 10th or 13th district. Walker may even challenge U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis for his seat, BH Media reported Thursday.
“Rep. Walker is going to run where his constituents are,” Jack Minor, a spokesman for the congressman, said.
Of course, that’s the problem.
If Walker does run again in the 6th, he’ll face a serious challenge from a Democrat — either Greensboro’s Kathy Manning, who announced her candidacy via Twitter before the judges’ ruling was disclosed, or former Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis Sr., who filed for the seat last week.
Fair and transparent elections should be a nonpartisan issue. A new congressional map will be drawn in 2022 after the next census, but before then, all of our legislators, Democrat, Republican and independent, should work together to create an independent commission to draw the lines.
The results under such a system might not be perfect, but they would be a vast improvement.
Legislators should not be able to handpick their voters in tailor-made safe districts.