Daily Kos Elections’ project to calculate the 2016 presidential results for every state legislative seat in the nation hits North Carolina, one of the worst gerrymanders anywhere. You can find our master list of states here, which we'll be updating as we add new states; you can also find all our data from 2016 and past cycles here.
Democrats lost control of both chambers of the legislature in 2010, and the new GOP majorities quickly did all they could to make sure Team Blue never returned to power. Last year, a federal court ruled that the Republicans illegally packed African American voters into several seats in order to strengthen Republicans elsewhere, and they ordered the state to redraw several legislative districts and hold new elections in 2017. However, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay, and they have not yet announced if or when they’ll take up the case.
For now, it’s unclear if the GOP’s map will remain intact, or if there will be a new one in place this fall or next year. North Carolina does not allow its governor to veto redistricting whatsoever, so if the GOP legislature has to come up with new districts, there isn’t anything Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper can do to stop them from devising the strongest gerrymander they think the court will tolerate.
The GOP currently holds a 35-15 Senate majority and a 74-46 edge in the House. The GOP can override Cooper’s vetoes with three-fifths of the vote in each chamber, so Democrats need to net six Senate seats or three House districts to take away Team Red’s supermajority. The North Carolina GOP legislature is one of the most reactionary in the nation, and Democrats would be delighted if they can stop them from passing more bills like the notorious anti-LGBT HB2. However, that won’t be easy. While Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in North Carolina by a close 50.5-46.8 margin, he won 31 of the 50 Senate seats and 76 of the 120 House seats. All the districts in both chambers are up every two years.
If Democrats can win all the Clinton seats in the Senate and take just two Trump districts, they’d be able to strip the GOP of their supermajority there. However, four Republicans represent Clinton turf, while no Democrats hold Trump seats. The bluest GOP-held seat is SD-15, a Raleigh seat that swung from 53-46 Romney all the way to 52-44 Clinton, but where GOP state Sen. John Alexander won a second term 50-46.
If Democrats took those four Clinton seats, the two most likely Trump targets are SD-27 and SD-19. SD-27, which is located in the Greensboro area, swung from 54-45 Romney to a smaller 50-47 Trump, but Republican incumbent Trudy Wade won a third term 53-47. SD-19, which includes much of Cumberland County, went in the other direction, going from 49.8-49.4 Obama to 51-46 Trump. (Because Cumberland splits so many large precincts in a way that scoops African Americans into a neighboring seat, it’s possible we’re actually underestimating Trump’s performance here.) Republican state Sen. Wesley Meredith, the Senate majority whip, won re-election 56-44. Two other GOP Senate seats, SD-18 and SD-9, also gave Trump a margin of victory of about 5 percent, and they could be targets; however, both Republican senators Chad Barefoot and Michael Lee won re-election last year by double digits.
Democrats may have a better shot in the state House, where they need to net three seats to deny the GOP a supermajority, at least on paper. Five Democrats represent Trump seats in this chamber, so Team Blue may need to play some defense here. The reddest Democratic-held seat is HD-22, which went from 56-44 Romney to 59-40 Trump; Democratic state Rep. William Brisson won the general without any opposition, though he only prevailed in the primary 53-47. Brisson is a conservative Democrat who often votes with Republicans on key bills, meaning Democrats might need to net more than three seats to break the supermajority in practice.
Three Republicans hold Clinton seats; the bluest is HD-104, a Charlotte-area district that dramatically swung from 56-43 Romney to 52-44 Clinton, but where Republican Andy Dulin won his first term 55-45. The other two Clinton/Republican seats are HD-36, which went from 54-45 Romney to 50-46 Clinton, and HD-105, which went from 57-42 Romney to 50-47 Clinton. HD-36’s Nelson Dollar only won re-election 49-46, but HD-105’s Scott Stone won his first full term 55-45.
It will be difficult enough for Democrats to take away the GOP supermajorities in either chamber under this map, and actually retaking either chamber is an even more daunting prospect. One way to illustrate how strong the GOP gerrymanders are is to sort each seat in each chamber by Trump's margin of victory over Clinton and see how the seat in the middle—known as the median seat—voted. Because North Carolina has an even number of seats, we average the Clinton and Trump percentages for the middle two seats to come up with the median. In the Senate, Trump won the median seat 58-40, while he carried the median House seat 54-42. For Democrats to retake either chamber, they’ll need to win over several seats that Trump carried by double digits, a very intimidating prospect. With luck, this map won’t be in effect much longer, but if the GOP has to draw up new boundaries, they’ll do everything they can to maintain their huge advantages.