Hot on the tail of the September 3 Common Cause v. Lewis ruling that overturned almost half of North Carolina’s state legislative districts, Eric Holder’s National Redistricting Foundation (an organization affiliated with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee) is suing over the district lines of all 13 of North Carolina’s congressional districts.
In Common Cause v. Lewis neither side denied that partisan considerations, such as past election results, were used to draw district maps. That is a practice that no state court had found to be unconstitutional before September 3. Common Cause v. Lewis also puts precedent on the law on the side of the Holder’s group, so it is likely that the plaintiffs will prevail if there is a decision made on the case.
However, the decision may come too late to affect the 2020 election. Common Cause v. Lewis was originally filed in early November of 2018. Nearly eleven months later, we still do not have final approval of the court-ordered remedial maps. Even if the court in the new case delays or eliminates congressional primaries, it would be difficult for them to render a verdict in time for drawing and approving new maps, allowing candidate filings, and printing and mailing absentee ballots before November of 2020.
If the court succeeds in truncating the process in order to render a verdict early enough to change the districts for the 2020 elections, Democrats may not be entirely pleased with the result. I noted immediately after the Common Cause v. Lewis decision that Democrats would likely find that victory underwhelming because the court-ordered remedy included a prohibition of the use of partisan data to draw the new legislative districts. That limited how how much the districts can be manipulated under the court order:
With partisanship not considered, Democratic gains in the state legislature under the next round of redistricting will be relatively modest. That is because it requires an active consideration of partisanship for them to overcome political geography.
Analysis of the districts drawn under the court-ordered in Common Cause v. Lewis process supports that prediction. At least in the short term, fair maps produce likely Republican legislative majorities.
Similarly, while a map of congressional districts drawn without regard to partisan data would almost certainly reduce the number of Republicans elected to Congress from North Carolina, it still likely be favorable to Republicans. A redistricting model based on politically neutral criteria produced by the statistical analysis website 538 found that the most likely result would be a 8-5 split in favor of Republicans.
So, the most likely result of the new lawsuit is disappointment on both sides.
To top it all off, we also have redistricting for 2022, for which North Carolina is expect to gain a 14th congressional seat, to anticipate.