On Wednesday, North Carolina Republicans passed new congressional and state legislative gerrymanders that will likely cost three to four House Democrats their seats in Congress and guarantee GOP control of the legislature in this longtime swing state. Thanks to an unusual provision of the state's constitution, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper lacks the power to veto this map, so these new districts will now become law.
The GOP's new congressional map will rank as one of the most extreme gerrymanders in the country and upend the state's House delegation. North Carolina relied on a court-drawn map in 2022 that elected seven Democrats and seven Republicans, with Republican House candidates collectively winning the popular vote by a close 52-48 margin.
As shown at the top of this story (click here for a larger version), that map will be replaced with one that will almost certainly elect 10 or 11 Republicans next year and just three or four Democrats. The plan could also end the House career of one of the state's three Black representatives.
Meanwhile, the GOP's new state Senate and state House maps turbocharge their existing gerrymanders and will make it effectively impossible for Democrats to secure majorities, even though they're routinely capable of winning statewide elections. Even worse, the new maps will likely ensure that, in all but the most Democratic of election years, Republicans will maintain the three-fifths supermajorities they'd need to override gubernatorial vetoes and to place constitutional amendments on the ballot.
The congressional gerrymander works by cracking apart two heavily Democratic urban areas: the city of Fayetteville and the region known as the Piedmont Triad, which includes Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point. These four cities are collectively split among six different districts, combining their large Black populations with heavily white rural areas to ensure that all will be represented solely by Republicans.
Republicans are using the reverse approach to suppress the strength of voters in Charlotte and Raleigh, the state's two biggest cities, as well as the Research Triangle region in the Raleigh area. There, they've packed Democrats into just three dark-blue districts, while adjacent districts dilute blue-trending suburbs with deep red rural turf.
Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning, who comfortably won reelection 54-45 last year, is one of the GOP's targets. Her Triad-based 6th District previously contained all of Greensboro, which is the state's third-largest city; almost all of neighboring High Point; and part of nearby Winston-Salem. The reconfigured 6th retains only High Point and a small portion of Greensboro, instead picking up heavily Republican rural areas to the southwest.
Those changes turn the district from one that would have voted 56-43 for Joe Biden in 2020 into one that would have gone 57-41 for Donald Trump, according to Dave's Redistricting App—a 29-percentage-point swing in partisanship.
Earlier this month, before the GOP unveiled its map, Manning had said she would seek reelection to a third term, though the new district's lean would make her task Herculean if not impossible. That same week, High Point Mayor Jay Wagner announced he would seek the Republican nomination for "[w]hichever district the city of High Point is in," and other Republicans will likely run here, too.
Additionally on Wednesday, former GOP Rep. Mark Walker told the conservative Carolina Journal that he was dropping his long-shot gubernatorial campaign and will run for the 6th. Walker had held a previous version of this district last decade, but he declined to seek reelection in 2020 when litigation led to that GOP gerrymander getting replaced with a somewhat fairer map that year, and Manning won to succeed him.
In the Triangle, meanwhile, Republicans have completely transformed freshman Democratic Rep. Wiley Nickel's 13th District by removing its portions of Raleigh and the nearby suburb of Cary, both of which are solidly blue. They've instead added rural and exurban areas to the north and northwest of Raleigh so that the district now fully wraps around the Research Triangle in a backward "C" shape.
These changes turn what had been a 50-48 Biden district, which Nickel narrowly won 52-48 last year, into a 58-41 Trump seat, a shift of 17 points. In response to the map’s passage, Nickel released a statement saying he would not yet announce his 2024 election plans but would instead "sue the bastards" in court.
Down in Charlotte, Republicans have dismantled freshman Rep. Jeff Jackson's 14th District, which was a 57-41 Biden district that covered the southern half of the city and its western exurbs. They've accomplished this by giving almost all of Charlotte to the dark blue 12th District, represented by Democratic Rep. Alma Adams.
Instead, the 14th now sprawls westward nearly to the Appalachian Mountains and becomes a 57-41 Trump district. That 32-point swing to the right is the largest in any of the state's congressional districts. Conversely, Adams' 12th District will become an extreme Democratic vote sink, shifting 20 points to the left, from 64-34 for Biden to 74-24.
When the GOP's first draft was unveiled, Jackson strongly implied that he wouldn't seek reelection in such an unwinnable district, though he could run for state attorney general. On the Republican side, state House Speaker Tim Moore is retiring from the legislature next year and said Tuesday he is considering running for the new 14th. Political insiders had long predicted that Moore could draw a new seat for himself, and very conveniently, the 14th now includes his entire legislative district and has no GOP incumbent.
The fourth and final Democrat who could lose their seat thanks to the new map is freshman Rep. Don Davis, whose 1st District previously included rural parts of inland northeastern North Carolina and has been represented by a Black Democrat since its creation as a district protected by the Voting Rights Act in the 1990s. The 1st loses the city of Greenville, which has a large Black population and leans strongly Democratic, to GOP Rep. Greg Murphy's 3rd District, which in return gives the 1st parts of the Outer Banks along the coast that are heavily white and Republican.
These changes shift the 1st from a 53-46 Biden district that Davis won 52-48 as an open seat last year into a district that Biden carried just 50-49. The new 1st has been trending Republican over the past decade, as evidenced by Republican Ted Budd's 52-46 win under the revised lines in last year's Senate contest. While it's not a guaranteed GOP pickup if Davis seeks reelection, he likely would have lost last year had these lines been in effect. (Budd lost the old 1st by 49.3-48.8.) Davis has not yet revealed what his plans are.
Several Republican members will also see their seats drastically reconfigured, but the map spreads around GOP voters with laser precision to ensure each district remains safely red without wasting those voters in overly Republican districts. Murphy's 3rd, for instance, now extends much further inland from the coast and becomes bluer thanks to Greenville, but it's still solidly red, with a 58-41 Trump margin.
The bulk of Greensboro, meanwhile, now gets drawn into Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx's 5th District, which runs westward along the Virginia border all the way to the Appalachians and is safely red, with a 57-42 Trump margin. At the same time, almost all of Winston-Salem gets added to Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry's 10th District, where most of the population remains in rural areas to the southwest and the Charlotte exurbs. That drops it from a 69-30 Trump margin to 57-41 Trump —much more efficient, from the perspective of Republican gerrymandering.
As for the leftover fringes of Greensboro and its conservative exurbs, they're added to GOP Rep. Richard Hudson's 9th District, which now extends southeast through heavily Republican rural areas to include part of Fayetteville in the Sandhills region. This would shore up Hudson: His previous district backed Trump by a somewhat modest 53-45 spread, but the new map makes it more secure at 56-42 Trump.
In the 8th District, GOP Rep. Dan Bishop is retiring to run for attorney general, leaving open a 58-40 Trump seat that spans from Charlotte's suburbs eastward to the Sandhills. The revised district appears to reward turncoat Democratic state Rep. Tricia Cotham, whose party switch to the GOP earlier this year handed Republicans a veto-proof majority, which they've used to restrict abortion and pass other far-right policies. Cotham has not yet indicated what she'll do next—her legislative district was also made much redder—but the 8th picks up her base in Charlotte's inner suburbs from the 12th.
The state's other four House members would see their districts retain a similar political composition. The two remaining Democratic districts would both become bluer: Rep. Deborah Ross' 2nd District in Raleigh would shift from 64-35 Biden to 67-31 Biden, while Rep. Valerie Foushee's neighboring 4th District, which includes the Durham and Chapel Hill areas in the Research Triangle, moves from 67-32 Biden to 72-26 Biden.
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. David Rouzer's 7th District in southeastern North Carolina sees few changes and stays solidly red at 55-44 Trump. Finally, in the Appalachian Mountains, in the state's far western corner, Republican Rep. Chuck Edwards' 11th District is largely untouched and would have voted 55-44 for Trump in 2020.
As a result, the new map will yield a delegation that, at best, splits 10-4 in Republicans' favor, or very possibly 11-3—if not next year, then later this decade. Democrats' only real chance of reversing these gerrymanders involves either passing legislation at the federal level, which likely can't happen before 2025, or taking back the state Supreme Court, which involves a multiyear plan that would require winning four of the next five court races between 2024 and 2028.
This piece has been updated with new comments from Rep. Wiley Nickel.