Yesterday, courts in Pennsylvania and North Carolina finalized new redistricting maps in each state, both courts having found the Republican legislative-drawn maps unconstitutionally manipulated to favor the GOP. Let's start with North Carolina.
The old map had 8 Republican districts, 5 Democratic districts and no competitive districts. The state gained one new seat and the Republicans in the state legislature then passed a new map that would have produced 10 Republican seats and four Democratic seats and still no competitive districts. The new map that was approved today-- although the Republicans in the legislature are appealing it to the state Supreme Court, which already turned their map down as too partisan-- looks like it will result in 6 Democratic seats, 7 Republican seats and one competitive seat (R+3) that a Republican is likely to win this year but could easily lose in a good Democratic year, especially if the Republicans nominate an extremist-- and North Carolina Republicans only nominate extremists.
Madison Cawthorn-- if he's allowed to run at all after his role in the insurrection-- will probably stay put in the Asheville district (NC-11), which goes from R+16 to R+14 and could be won in a Democratic wave year, though not this year. He was planning to move to another, redder district, but it doesn't look like he'll be able to now, since the Charlotte area will now have 2 safe blue seats. Dan Bishop announced today that he will retire from Congress rather than run in an environment less friendly to far right extremists.
The one really competitive district (NC-13 south of Raleigh) leans slightly Republican (R+3) but in a non-wave year could go either way. The seat Blue America is most invested din, of course, is the old GK Butterfield seat in the northeast part of the state, a rural district that had a D+7 lean but that the GOP tried giving a D+1 lean. This is the seat Erica Smith is running for. Today's new map gives in a D+5 lean, so she should win-- as long as she can beat the anti-Choice fake Democrat who's running against her in the primary.
This map, though, is only for this cycle, not for the decade, and that will give the legislature another chance to gerrymander it in time for the 2024 election, especially if a Republican wins a state Supreme Court seat in November.
The NY Times analysis was slightly more optimistic for the Democrats than mine is. Michael Wines wrote late yesterday that "The new map, drawn by a nonpartisan panel of four redistricting experts, appeared to split North Carolina’s congressional districts roughly equally between Republicans and Democrats, in a state where voters are divided evenly along partisan lines. It gives each party six relatively safe House seats and makes the remaining two winnable by either side."
The ruling on Wednesday further cemented the rising importance of state courts in redistricting battles since 2019, when the U.S. Supreme Court said that partisan gerrymandering was a political issue beyond its jurisdiction. In recent weeks, the State Supreme Court in Ohio has twice rejected maps of the State Legislature drawn by a Republican-leaning redistricting commission.
Also on Wednesday, the State Supreme Court in Pennsylvania put its mark on that state’s congressional map, settling a partisan dispute over boundaries for House seats by selecting a map drawn by a Stanford University political scientist.
The Stanford map of 17 House seats, which had been proposed by Democratic Party supporters who filed a redistricting lawsuit last year, appears to give Republicans nine fairly safe seats and Democrats eight, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. Each party currently holds nine House seats, but Pennsylvania will lose a seat next year because of reapportionment after the 2020 census.
On Tuesday, two Republican candidates for House seats in Pennsylvania asked a federal court to bar the state court from selecting a map, arguing that the federal Constitution reserved that duty exclusively for legislatures. There have been suggestions that Republicans in North Carolina might make a similar appeal.
Federal courts have rejected such arguments in the past. But in recent months, four conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have hinted at support for a novel argument, called the independent state legislature doctrine, that state legislatures have complete authority over election laws absent action by Congress.
Any further delay in approving district maps in Pennsylvania or North Carolina could cause issues for an election schedule that already has been delayed by litigation. Pennsylvania has extended its deadline for candidates to file to run in primary election races until mid-May because of the dispute over congressional districts, and Republicans in the State Legislature asked a court last week to block State House and Senate maps drawn by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission.
In North Carolina, filing for primary election contests is set to resume on Thursday, but further challenges to any of the maps could delay that.
The new Pennsylvania map looks to me like it gives the Democrats 6 safe districts and the Republicans 8 (although one is held by progressive Democrat Matt Cartwright). Cartwright's Scranton-0centric district goes from an R+9 to an R+8. The Scott Perry Harrisburg-centric district goes from an R+8 to an R+9. And I would call Brian Fitzpatrick's seat (which went from D+1 to even), Susan Wild's seat (which went from even to R+4) and the Conor Lamb seat (which went from R+2 to D+1) all highly competitive. Wild is probably in trouble this year.