Prof. Justin Levitt's Guide to Drawing the Electoral Lines

North Carolina

State Summary

North Carolina’s congressional and state legislative lines are both drawn by the legislature, and not subject to gubernatorial veto.

In the 2010 cycle, North Carolina’s legislature passed a congressional plan (SB 453), state Senate plan (SB 455), and state House plan (HB 937) on July 27, 2011, which were precleared on Nov. 1, 2011.  The congressional plans were struck down by a federal court on Feb. 5, 2016; a remedial congressional plan (SB 2) was used in the 2016 and 2018 elections, but struck down in state court as a partisan gerrymander on Oct. 28, 2019.  The legislature drew another remedial congressional plan (H 1029) on Nov. 15, 2019.

For the state legislative plans, on Aug. 11, 2016, a federal court found that 9 state Senate districts and 19 state House districts were drawn based on an unjustified use of race (because the elections were imminent, the map was used in 2016).   Remedial state Senate (SB 691) and state House (HB 927) plans drawn in 2017 were rejected in part because several districts were still based on an unjustified use of race; the federal court modified the state plan on Jan. 21, 2018.  After the 2018 elections, two state court decisions found that the 2017 plans were also illegal partisan and mid-decade gerrymanders.  On Sept. 17, 2019, the legislature drew a final set of remedial state Senate (SB 692) and state House (HB 1020) plans.

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Institution

North Carolina’s congressional and state legislative lines are both drawn by the legislature, and not subject to gubernatorial veto.  [N.C. Const. art. II, § 22(5)]

North Carolina law gives exclusive jurisdiction over challenges to congressional and state legislative plans in state court to a three-judge panel composed of the senior superior court judge of Wake County and two other state superior court judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court from different regions of the state, with appeal directly to the state Supreme Court. No member of the three-judge panel may be a former state legislator. If a plan is found unlawful, a state court may not impose its own plan without first giving the legislature time to correct the issue. [N.C. Stat. §§ 1-81.1, 1-267.1120-2.4]

Timing

North Carolina state law does not impose a particular deadline for drawing congressional lines, though candidates must file for congressional primary elections by Dec. 17, 2021. [N.C. Stat. § 163-106.2]

State legislative lines must be drawn in the first regular legislative session after the federal Census is conducted; that session began on Jan. 27, 2021, and is currently scheduled to end on July 30, 2021. [N.C. Const. art. II, §§ 3, 5]  Candidates must file for state legislative primary elections by Dec. 17, 2021. [N.C. Stat. § 163-106.2]

The North Carolina constitution prohibits redrawing state legislative lines mid-decade; there is no similar provision pertaining to congressional lines. [N.C. Const. art. II, §§ 3, 5]

Public input

The legislature has not announced any specific plans for public input this cycle just yet.

State law provides that redistricting-related requests to legislative employees and documents prepared by legislative employees become public records when a final district plan becomes law.  [N.C. Stat. § 120-133]

Criteria

Like all states, North Carolina must comply with constitutional equal population requirements. [N.C. Const. art. II, §§ 3, 5Stephenson v. Bartlett, 582 S.E.2d 247, 249-51 (N.C. 2003)]

North Carolina must also, like all states, abide by the Voting Rights Act and constitutional rules on race.

North Carolina law also provides additional constraints for state legislative districts. Districts must be contiguous (not merely touching at a point) and compact, and where doing so is not otherwise required by law, district lines must cross county lines as little as possible (and in grouping multiple counties together, must group as few as possible). State law also states that communities of interest should be considered. [N.C. Const. art. II, §§ 3, 5Stephenson v. Bartlett, 582 S.E.2d 247, 249-51 (N.C. 2003)]

The North Carolina Constitution also prohibits extreme partisan gerrymandering — redistricting plans intended to entrench politicians in power, and which have the effect of substantially burdening or diluting votes based on partisanship. [Harper v. Lewis, No. 19-CVS-012667 (N.C. Super. Ct., Wake Cnty. Oct. 28, 2019); Common Cause v. Lewis, No. 18-CVS-014001, 2019 WL 4569584 (N.C. Super. Ct., Wake Cnty. Sept. 3, 2019)]

2010 cycle

North Carolina’s legislature passed a congressional plan (SB 453) on July 27, 2011, which was precleared on Nov. 1, 2011.  On Nov. 7, 2011, the legislature passed SB 689, a technical correction bill to correct a computer error, which was precleared on Dec. 8, 2011.

The legislature also passed a state Senate (SB 455) and state House (HB 937) plan on July 27, 2011, which was precleared on Nov. 1, 2011.  On Nov. 7, 2011, the legislature passed technical correction bills for the state Senate (SB 283) and state House (HB 777); the bills were also precleared on Dec. 8, 2011.

 

The congressional plans were challenged in state and federal court; on Feb. 5, 2016, the federal court struck two districts based on an unjustified use of race.  [Harris v. McCrory, 159 F. Supp. 3d 600 (M.D.N.C. 2016), aff’d sub nom. Cooper v. Harris, 137 S. Ct. 1455 (2017); Dickson v. Rucho, 766 S.E.2d 238 (N.C. 2014), vacated, 135 S. Ct. 1843 (2015), 781 S.E.2d 404 (N.C. 2015), vacated, 137 S. Ct. 2186 (2017), judgment, Dickson v. Rucho, No. 11-CVS-16896 (N.C. Super. Ct., Wake Cnty. Feb. 12, 2018)]

The legislature drew a remedial congressional plan (SB 2) on Feb. 19, 2016, used in the 2016 and 2018 elections.  Challenges in federal court were unsuccessful, but on Oct. 28, 2019, a state court struck the plan as a partisan gerrymander in violation of the state constitution.  [Harper v. Lewis, No. 19-CVS-012667 (N.C. Super. Ct., Wake Cnty. Oct. 28, 2019); Rucho v. Common Cause, 139 S. Ct. 2484 (2019); Harris v. McCrory, No. 1:13-cv-00949, 2016 WL 3129213 (M.D.N.C. June 2, 2016), aff’d, 138 S. Ct. 2711 (2018)]

The legislature drew another remedial congressional plan (H 1029) on Nov. 15, 2019.  Further challenges were rejected. [Brewster v. Berger, No. 2:19-cv-00037 (E.D.N.C. Dec. 2, 2019)]

 

The state legislative plans were also challenged in state and federal court.  On Aug. 11, 2016, the federal court found that 9 state Senate districts and 19 state House districts were drawn based on an unjustified use of race — but because the elections were imminent, the map was used in 2016.   [Covington v. North Carolina, 316 F.R.D. 117 (M.D.N.C. 2016), aff’d, 137 S. Ct. 2211 (2017), 137 S. Ct. 1624 (2017); Dickson v. Rucho, 766 S.E.2d 238 (N.C. 2014), vacated, 135 S. Ct. 1843 (2015), 781 S.E.2d 404 (N.C. 2015), vacated, 137 S. Ct. 2186 (2017), judgment, Dickson v. Rucho, No. 11-CVS-16896 (N.C. Super. Ct., Wake Cnty. Feb. 12, 2018)]]

On Aug. 31, 2017, the legislature drew remedial state Senate (SB 691) and state House (HB 927) plans, but they were rejected in part by the federal court; the court found that 2 state Senate districts and 2 state House districts were still based on an unjustified use of race, and 5 state House districts were redrawn by the legislature contrary to state law and without any need based on the 2016 order.  The federal court drew its own plan on Jan. 21, 2018.  The Supreme Court agreed with respect to the 4 districts based on an unjustified use of race, but said that the federal court should not have redrawn the state House map based on a violation of state law.  The 2018 elections were held under the federal court’s modification of the districts drawn improperly based on race.  [Covington v. North Carolina, 283 F. Supp. 3d 410 (M.D.N.C. 2018); North Carolina v. Covington, 138 S. Ct. 2548 (2018)]

The 5 state House districts redrawn in 2017 without need imposed by federal law were further challenged in state court; on Nov. 2, 2018, a state court found that they were impermissibly redrawn mid-decade.  [N.C. State Conference of NAACP Branches v. Lewis, No. 18-CVS-002322 (N.C. Super. Ct., Wake Cnty. Nov. 2, 2018)]  Separately, on Sept. 3, 2019, a state court struck the 2017 remedial state Senate and state House plans as partisan gerrymanders in violation of the state constitution.   [Common Cause v. Lewis, No. 18-CVS-014001, 2019 WL 4569584 (N.C. Super. Ct., Wake Cnty. Sept. 3, 2019)]

On Sept. 17, 2019, the legislature drew a final set of remedial state Senate (SB 692) and state House (HB 1020) plans.  Further challenges to these plans were rejected in court.  [Common Cause v. Lewis, No. 18-CVS-014001 (N.C. Super. Ct., Wake Cnty. Oct. 28, 2019)]

2000 cycle

North Carolina’s legislature passed a congressional plan (HB 32) on Dec. 5, 2001, which was precleared on Feb. 15, 2002. It appears that this plan was not challenged in court.

The legislature also passed state Senate (SB 798) and state House (HB 1025) plans on Nov. 13, 2001, which were precleared on Feb. 11, 2002. This plan was successfully challenged in state court, on the grounds that it did not sufficiently maintain county boundaries. [Stephenson v. Bartlett, 562 S.E.2d 377 (N.C. 2002)]

The legislature then redrew a state legislative plan (HB 4) on May 20, 2002; this plan was also struck down in state court, on grounds relating to the Voting Rights Act, compactness, and the need to otherwise keep county boundaries intact.  On May 31, 2002, the state court drew its own plan, which was precleared on July 12, 2002, and used for the 2002 elections. [Stephenson v. Bartlett, 582 S.E.2d 247 (N.C. 2003)]

The legislature redrew state legislative lines (HB 3) for a third time on Nov. 25, 2003, which were precleared on Mar. 30, 2004. The state House plan was again challenged, and again struck down in state court, on grounds that section 2 of the Voting Rights Act could not trump North Carolina’s provision concerning county boundaries for minority electorates amounting to less than 50% of a district-sized population. However, the court allowed the 2003 districts to remain intact for the 2008 election. [Pender County v. Bartlett, 649 S.E.2d 364 (N.C. 2007), aff’d sub nom. Bartlett v. Strickland, 556 U.S. 1 (2009)]

On June 16, 2009, the state legislature passed a plan amending the state House lines (HB 1621) in two counties, in order to comply with the above court decisions. Because the only two counties affected were not covered under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, no preclearance was required.

Additional challenges against the state legislative plan were filed in federal court, but the plan was not otherwise held unlawful. [Dean v. Leake, 550 F. Supp. 2d 594 (E.D.N.C. 2008)]

Redistricting Cases in North Carolina

Search all North Carolina Cases >

North Carolina | Federal Trial | Federal Supreme | Congress
Common Cause v. Rucho
Supreme Court rejected challenge to congressional maps: alleged unconstitutional partisan gerrymander
Last Updated Jun 27, 2019
Case Number

No. 1-16-cv-01026 (M.D.N.C), Nos. 17A745, 17-1295, 18-422 (S. Ct.)

Cycle 2010