North Carolina

North Carolina: Blue Flip

Senate: 21 Democrats, 29 Republicans | To Flip Blue: 5 Seats
House:
55 Democrats, 65 Republicans | To Flip Blue: 6 Seats

To flip these chambers, Democrats need to win 5 Senate seats and 6 House seats Momentum is on our side: in 2018, Democrats broke Republican supermajorities in both chambers. We can build on this energy to flip at least one chamber in 2020.

Flipping a chamber would give Democrats a critical seat at the redistricting table. As in many states, Republicans in North Carolina brutally gerrymandered the maps in their favor in the last round of redistricting. As one example, 2018 Democratic candidates for NC House received 51% of the vote, but only won 45% of the seats.

We can prevent this by flipping a chamber and ensuring that Democrats have a voice in the next round of redistricting. This is particularly important because the Governor in NC does not have veto power over the maps. So even when Democratic Governor Roy Cooper wins re-election, we will still need Democratic control of a chamber to have a say in redistricting.

As happened in Virginia in 2019, a number of NC districts have recently been redrawn, after courts held they were illegally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans. The new maps are not a slam-dunk for Democrats, but they do provide new opportunities.

Democratic Governor Roy Cooper is up for re-election in 2020. It’ll be a competitive race, and his reelection campaign will help drive resources and get-out-the-vote efforts for down-ballot candidates.

These are ‘last chance’ races: whoever is elected in 2020 will draw the next round of district lines.

Fast Facts

  • Current Control: Divided. Governor – D; Senate – R; House – R
  • Gubernatorial Election: Up in 2020
  • Length of State Senate and House Terms: 2 years
  • Candidate Filing Deadline: December 20, 2019
  • State Legislative Primary Date: March 3, 2020
  • Redistricting: Congressional and state legislative lines drawn by state legislature; Governor does not have veto power
  • Electoral College Votes: 15

 

Broader 2020 Opportunities

  • North Carolina is a battleground presidential state this year. Obama carried NC in 2008 before Romney won in ‘12 by 2 points, and Trump won it by just 3 points. Democrats have a tremendous opportunity to claim NC’s 15 Electoral College votes this year.
  • There is also an important, very competitive Senate race in North Carolina this year (R-Tillis), as well as competitive Congressional races (including NC-02, NC-06, and NC-09).
  • Working to support NC state legislative candidates will be instrumental in helping drive turnout up and down the ticket in this historic election year.

Population Demographics

Population

10,611,862

Median Age

38.3

Male | Female

48.6 % | 51.4%

Racial Diversity

White: 68.87%; Black: 21.46%; Asian: 2.78%; Two+ races: 2.59%; Other: 3.03%

2016 Election

Hillary Clinton

Votes: 2,189,316
Percentage: 46.17%
Electoral Votes: 0

Donald Trump

Votes: 2,362,631
Percentage: 49.83%
Electoral Votes: 15

“I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats, because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats”

Republican State Representative Dave Lewis said in a statement read into the record in 2016.

North Carolina is a majority-Democrat state. But shrewd manipulation of state legislative and Congressional district boundaries have meant that Republicans control both the State Senate and House, and are nearly 300% over-represented in the US House of Representatives.

District Lines

According to Ballotpedia, in North Carolina, the state legislature is responsible for drawing both congressional and state legislative district lines. District maps cannot be vetoed by the governor. State legislative redistricting must take place in the first regular legislative session following the United States Census. There are no explicit deadlines in place for congressional redistricting.

State law establishes the following requirements for state legislative districts:

  • Districts must be contiguous and compact.
  • Districts “must cross county lines as little as possible.” If counties are grouped together, the group should include as few counties as possible.
  • Communities of interest should be taken into account.
  • There are no similar restrictions in place regarding congressional districts.

Gerrymandering

The North Carolina districts have become infamous as an egregious case of gerrymandering, and their constitutionality is currently being litigated. Most recently, a state court panel threw out the state legislative maps for being unconstitutional. But North Carolina’s gerrymandering is not being contested in the federal courts, it is being challenged in North Carolina’s state courts, which are outside of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court ruling of June 2019. The state court has ruled that North Carolina’s districts are illegally gerrymandered and must be redrawn.

The redistricting process is highly contentious and remains unresolved. But the overriding premise in North Carolina is that the court has spoken, and the legislature must comply.

Photo by Michelle Ding on Unsplash

Voter Suppression

North Carolina is known for a high degree of voter suppression. In the last few years alone:

  • The ballots of nonwhite voters were consistently more likely to rejected as spoiled ballots.
  • The state enacted a photo ID law, which rejects student identification cards, public employee identification, and public housing identification.
  • The state also restricts or repealed: pre-registration for 16 and 17 year-olds, mandated high school registration drives, paid voter registration drives, same day voter registration, and a week of early voting.
  • The same bill increases or allows: vigilante poll watchers, weaker disclosure requirements for independent expenditure committees, and an expansion of the scope of who may examine registration records and then challenge voters.
  • GOP chairman Robin Hayes has been indicted on corruption charges.

New Voter Restrictions

from the Brennan Center 2019 Report: 

New restriction enacted in 2018: North Carolina voters enacted a constitutional amendment, via ballot initiative, that enshrined a photo ID requirement for voting in the state constitution. The state legislature subsequently enacted implementing legislation, over the governor’s veto.

New restriction (partially) in place in 2018: In 2018, the state enacted a law that requires uniform hours at early voting sites. The law has had the effect of reducing the number of early voting locations available to voters. (The law also cut the last Saturday of early voting before the election, but that provision was not in effect for the 2018 election and, in 2019, the state reinstated the last Saturday of early voting.)

A Republican-controlled state legislature passed a series of voting restrictions in 2013, which were signed by a GOP governor. Lawmakers eliminated same-day registration, reduced the early voting period, ended pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, and instituted a strict photo ID requirement, among a number of other restrictive changes. The measures were in effect for the first time in 2014 (except for the ID requirement, which was slated to go into effect in 2016). In June 2015, lawmakers softened the photo ID requirement, creating an option for voters to attest to a reasonable impediment to obtaining an ID, and vote a provisional ballot that will be counted unless there is a problem with the attestation. In July 2016, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state’s voting restrictions, ruling that they were passed with racially discriminatory intent. It also ruled that the “reasonable impediment” exception was not a sufficient remedy for the ID law’s harm.

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