The impact of redistricting on N.C. legislative seats

  • Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2011 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 12:21 a.m.
.
Dare
Hyde
Pitt
Carteret
Wake
Pender
Duplin
Bladen
Bertie
Onslow
Wilkes
Beaufort
Moore
Union
Craven
Halifax
Robeson
Nash
Brunswick
Surry
Sampson
Iredell
Tyrrell
Columbus
Swain
Burke
Johnston
Anson
Guilford
Ashe
Randolph
HarnettWayne
Jones
Chatham
Macon
Rowan
Hoke
Martin
Pamlico
Lee
Stokes
Stanly
Lenoir
Franklin
Buncombe
Granville
Davidson
Warren
Jackson
Haywood
CurrituckGates
Person
Caldwell
Wilson
Forsyth
Polk
Caswell
Cumberland
Orange
Rutherford
Madison
Gaston
Yadkin
Clay
Cherokee
Richmond
Cleveland
Catawba
Davie
Rockingham
McDowell
Hertford
Alamance
Lincoln
Avery
Mecklenburg
Northampton
Vance
Edgecombe
Yancey
Montgomery
Cabarrus
Durham
Graham
Scotland
Camden
Washington
Greene
Watauga
Henderson
Transylvania
MitchellChowan
Perquimans
Alexander
Pasquotank
NewHanover
Alleghany
3
1
6
5
13
22
4
227
46
16
120
66
55
2385
94
32
118
7
78
65
119
54
93
17
67
10
8
73
91
9
12
21
47
25
90
48
28
113
52
51112
87
50
84
15
45
86
76
18
53
77
79
89
97
8024
59
64
81
111
115
14
26
70
74
110
116
117
95
20
63
19
35
40
83
62
37
69
96
56
41
108
109
57
39
61
43
92
75
82
68
42
98
30
36
103
44
33
31
114
72
71
49
58
11
101
60
99
3834
107
29
105
104102
88
106
100
05010015020025Miles
LEWIS-DOLLAR-DOCKHAM 3
District with even PVI (+/- 2) (Toss Up)
District with Rep PVI 3 to 10 (Lean Republican)
District with Rep PVI > 10 (Likely Republican) 
District with Dem PVI > 10 (Likely Democratic)
District with Dem PVI 3 to 10 (Lean Democratic)
Based on 04 & 08 Presidential Election returns in new district 
using Cook Partisan Voting Index methodology
Dr. Michael Bitzer, politics@catawba.edu
Counties
. Dare Hyde Pitt Carteret Wake Pender Duplin Bladen Bertie Onslow Wilkes Beaufort Moore Union Craven Halifax Robeson Nash Brunswick Surry Sampson Iredell Tyrrell Columbus Swain Burke Johnston Anson Guilford Ashe Randolph HarnettWayne Jones Chatham Macon Rowan Hoke Martin Pamlico Lee Stokes Stanly Lenoir Franklin Buncombe Granville Davidson Warren Jackson Haywood CurrituckGates Person Caldwell Wilson Forsyth Polk Caswell Cumberland Orange Rutherford Madison Gaston Yadkin Clay Cherokee Richmond Cleveland Catawba Davie Rockingham McDowell Hertford Alamance Lincoln Avery Mecklenburg Northampton Vance Edgecombe Yancey Montgomery Cabarrus Durham Graham Scotland Camden Washington Greene Watauga Henderson Transylvania MitchellChowan Perquimans Alexander Pasquotank NewHanover Alleghany 3 1 6 5 13 22 4 227 46 16 120 66 55 2385 94 32 118 7 78 65 119 54 93 17 67 10 8 73 91 9 12 21 47 25 90 48 28 113 52 51112 87 50 84 15 45 86 76 18 53 77 79 89 97 8024 59 64 81 111 115 14 26 70 74 110 116 117 95 20 63 19 35 40 83 62 37 69 96 56 41 108 109 57 39 61 43 92 75 82 68 42 98 30 36 103 44 33 31 114 72 71 49 58 11 101 60 99 3834 107 29 105 104102 88 106 100 05010015020025Miles LEWIS-DOLLAR-DOCKHAM 3 District with even PVI (+/- 2) (Toss Up) District with Rep PVI 3 to 10 (Lean Republican) District with Rep PVI > 10 (Likely Republican) District with Dem PVI > 10 (Likely Democratic) District with Dem PVI 3 to 10 (Lean Democratic) Based on 04 & 08 Presidential Election returns in new district using Cook Partisan Voting Index methodology Dr. Michael Bitzer, politics@catawba.edu Counties

By Michael Bitzer

Second in a two-part series As I noted in Tuesday’s op-ed, a leading scholar describes redistricting as the “most political activity in American politics.” It receives this dubious label because those who get to draw the lines have the power to benefit their political party. The just-approved legislative and congressional maps have been described, by GOP leaders, as “fair and legal.” While I will leave those characteristics to the judgment of partisans and the courts, it is interesting to see the potential fundamental political shifts that could occur under these new lines. In looking at these new maps for the N.C. House and Senate, I used the approach that Charlie Cook, a respected independent analyst, uses to determine the competitiveness of U.S. House districts. For example, let’s say there is a district that, in 2004 and 2008, votes for the Republican presidential candidate 20 points over what that Republican garnered statewide. That district would most likely, in today’s political environment, elect Republicans down the rest of the ballot. While there are some “split ticket” districts, where voters cast their ballots for a presidential candidate of one party and switch to the other party for Congress, this phenomenon is becoming rare. Using the presidential returns of 2004 and 2008 in the new districts and comparing them to the statewide average of both parties’ presidential candidates, I arrived at a Partisan Voting Index (or PVI) for each of the new legislative districts. While this may not be the best indicator, it does give us an idea of how districts may tend to vote at the top of the ballot and allow some classification of these new districts. As Charlie Cook does, I divided the districts into five groups, based on their PVI: “likely” or “lean” GOP or Democratic, and “toss-up.” Where GOP gains For the new N.C. House districts, 66 districts would be considered “likely” for one party over the other: 36 for the Republicans, with 30 for the Democrats. The most Republican districts would be the proposed 73 and 78 (both at R+20, meaning the Republican presidential candidate won these districts by 20 points over his statewide average), while the most Democratic district appears to be the proposed 29th district in Durham, with a Democratic PVI of +37 points. So both parties in the House start off with a solid foundation of what appears to be “safe seats,” but it is in the “lean” categories that the GOP makes substantial headway to a majority: 37 seats appear to lean Republican, while only six appear to lean Democratic. What is more important is the fact that within both likely and lean GOP districts, eleven of them are currently held by Democratic incumbents, with five of them being coveted open seats. More on that later. The bottom line in the N.C. House: if Republicans only win those seats that likely or lean their way, they would have 73 seats out of the 120 seats available, twelve above what is needed for control ofthe chamber. In a possible sign that North Carolina is reflecting national political trends, less than 10 percent of the House districts could be considered competitive “toss-ups”: 11 out of 120 seats. The shrinking pool of truly competitive districts is alarming to many scholars who study electoral politics; some believe that this accounts for our current political polarization. Districts where the winners gain over 55 percent of the vote usually don’t have to listen to the minority party, but swing districts often create candidates who have to appeal to a wider rangeof the political spectrum. Effect in Rowan For example, in Rowan County, the 77th District was seen as one of the most competitive districts in the state — the close election of 2010, and even elections before that, indicated the swing nature of the district. But now, the 77th (currently held by Republican Harry Warren) could be identified as one of the likely Republican seats — the reason why is that the GOP wants to protect its own, particularly vulnerable freshmen members. Although the redrawn 76th District (currently held by Republican Fred Steen) gains some Democratic voters, it still falls into the likely GOP category, too. Out of the 50 seats in the N.C. Senate, it appears that at least 28 districts would be considered likely for one party or the other: 14 districts for Democrats and Republicans each (the latter including the 34th District seat held by Andrew Brock). The most Democratic district in the state would be the 28th, with a D+31 PVI, while the most Republican districts would be the 29th and 30th, both with R+15 PVIs. But again, as in the N.C. House, the Republicans appear to have a firm advantage when it comes to “lean” districts: 17 seats appear to lean Republican, while only two lean Democratic. Within the 17 “lean GOP” seats, four are currently held by Democrats, with one being an open seat. Among those competitive/”toss-up” seats, the N.C. Senate mirrors the House: less than 10 percent (three seats) appear to be competitive between the two parties. Regarding open seats: Republicans have several chances to pick up lean districts in their column, because the lines were drawn in these new districts without an incumbent current representingthe new district. Open seats are much more likely to be hard fought and easier for a party to pick off, particularly if the district has a tendency to vote for that party. An interesting point about N.C. Senate District 34: Rowan County is the largest “player” in that district, with 55 percent of the district’s population living in Rowan. Having the opportunity to draw district lines equates to writing the rules of the game: Here’s where we’ll play, here’s where you’ll play, and we can tell who will win this game next year. While many will object to this idea, it is what it is: politics, in its purest form, as a battle over governing power. • • • Dr. Michael Bitzer is an associate professor of politics and history at Catawba College, and blogs at nc-politics.blogspot.com. You can read the first part of this series on redistricting in the Opinion section at www.salisburypost.com.

Commenting is not allowed on this article.