The New Maps: An Improvement. Still bad.

February 17, 2022

This week, Republican leadership in the legislature unveiled the latest election maps for the U.S. House and legislative districts. These were drawn after the state supreme court struck down the first round of maps as an unconstitutional gerrymander. This second set of maps was drawn quickly to comply with a court-ordered deadline for new maps to be approved by February 23rd (in order for the State Board of Elections to have time to meet a May primary date).

UPDATE: on Wednesday, February 23rd, the North Carolina Supreme Court denied appeals from voting rights groups over the Senate map, and from GOP leadership over the Congressional map drawn by the Superior Court’s special masters. Barring intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court, these maps are now here to stay.

Here the finalized state legislature and Congressional maps to be used in the 2022 general election. We provide both the PDF maps, as well as links to the same precinct-level maps using Dave’s Redistricting App where readers can follow along:

In this post, we provide some analysis of the new maps. We proceed with the most recent information as of this writing. If and when new information arises, we will update this post. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Key context to bear in mind: North Carolina voters are basically evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. There is no serious debate about this issue – it is a matter of record. In statewide votes for the State House, State Senate and U.S. Congress, voters are split 50/50 on each one. Thus, a fair legislature should at least roughly reflect that. Of course, it does not. And neither does this new map.

State House

Important links: New State House map with incumbents (PDF) / DRA map

Here is a comparison of how the new State House map compares with the first one in terms of partisan lean:

  • Safe Dem: 41 (New) / 40 (Old)
  • Lean Dem: 16 (New) / 10 (Old)
  • Lean Rep: 9 (New) / 14 (Old)
  • Safe Rep: 54 (New) / 56 (Old)

In this breakdown, “Safe” districts are those where the gap between historic Republican and Democratic performance is 10 percentage points or more. Likewise, “Lean” districts have a historic gap of 10 points or less.

In this map, drawers have changed the partisan lean by relaxing some of the Republican tilt of their previous map. To be clear: this map is still likely to produce a legislature tilted greatly towards Republicans, well in excess of their overall vote share. This is accomplished primarily in urban counties, like Wake, Cumberland, Guilford and Buncombe. Many of those counties were where drawers engaged in clear partisan rigging in the first set of maps, and this was partially undone this time around.


In Pitt County, Republican drawers specifically targeted Democratic Rep. Brian Farkas (HD-9) in the old map by drawing him into a strongly Republican-leaning (R+7) district. In the new map, his district has picked up a handful of precincts that returns it to a highly competitive D+3 rating.



In Cumberland county, the new map somewhat “un-packs” Democratic voters in Fayetteville and the surrounding areas. While map drawers tried to protect both Republican incumbents in HD-43 and HD-45 in the first map by packing Democrats into the two westernmost districts, the new map abandons that plan. This likely has to do with the fact that Rep. John Szoka, who currently holds HD-45, is now running for Congress rather than for re-election to the State House. Instead, map drawers have focused on protecting Republican Rep. Diane Wheatley, who holds HD-43. Wheatley’s district moves to a highly competitive R+1.

The Triangle: Wake and Durham

As one of the most populated parts of the state, the Triangle presents significant opportunities for partisan mischief through drawing creative maps. In the old map, Republican leaders targeted Rep. Terence Everitt in HD-35 by strategically stretching his district to encompass several new Republican-leaning precincts, while cutting Democratic-leaning ones out. In the new maps, they have abandoned that attempt.

Earlier attempts to sculpt a highly safe seat for Rep. Erin Paré’s seat in southeastern Wake (HD-37) are still largely intact. Republican leaders appear determined to safeguard the party’s flag in Wake, at least for now. In the new maps, HD-37 is scaled back somewhat to an R+5 district – still in the competitive range.


The maps in Guilford represented a particular sticking point because of how disproportionate their partisan results were compared to overall votes. However, this also made Guilford the logical place for Republican leaders to “give back” some territory. In the new maps, Republican leaders allowed 2 new highly competitive districts – HD-59 and HD-62 – which are both now roughly 50/50 seats.


In the old maps, drawers attempted to carve out a reasonably safe Republican seat in western Buncombe by packing Democrats into two very safe blue seats in the east. Now, some of that packing has been undone to better reflect the overall lean of the county, creating 3 reasonably safe Democratic seats.

State Senate

Important links: New State Senate map with incumbents (PDF) / DRA map

On Thursday, February 17th, a draft State Senate map (which we linked to above) was voted out of the legislature. Unlike the State House map, the State Senate map is under ongoing litigation as of this writing. Thus, we could very well see changes soon. Bear this in mind when reading this analysis.

Here is a comparison of how this State State map compares with the first one in terms of partisan lean:

  • Safe Dem: 17 (New) / 17 (Old)
  • Lean Dem: 5 (New) / 3 (Old)
  • Lean Rep: 4 (New) / 4 (Old)
  • Safe Rep: 24 (New) / 26 (Old)

In this breakdown, “Safe” districts are those where the gap between historic Republican and Democratic performance is 10 percentage points or more. Likewise, “Lean” districts have a historic gap of 10 points or less.

This new State Senate map is only barely an improvement over the first draft. Right from the start, it requires Republicans to win only 2 of 4 lean-GOP districts to clench a majority, which they’re favored to already; and only 6 seats to win a supermajority. By contrast, Democrats would not only have to win all the lean-Dem districts (of which there is one fewer), but also all of the lean-GOP districts as well.

That is not a fair map.

Unlike the House map, the Senate map is far more determined by the deeply flawed county grouping process (described in more detail previously). Thus, one of the key variables drawers can use is changing which county grouping to use in constructing districts. This is what they have done, as we will see.

Down East

In Eastern Carolina, map drawers first attempted to use a bizarre grouping to construct a snakelike Senate district (number 2) reaching from Morehead City all the way up to Warrenton on the Virginia border. By doing so, they were able to effectively eliminate Democratic State Senator Ernestine Bazemore with no election required, because the resulting District 2 would be reasonably safe Republican (R+9). In the new map, drawers have gone back to a different county grouping. The new District 3 (same region, different number) leans Democratic again at D+7.


Another tragi-comical result of the county grouping process is the Cumberland-Moore grouping. Moore county is heavily Republican, but also only about a third of the size of Cumberland county’s population, and the two are connected only by a strip of land about 1.2 miles across. Nevertheless, these two must be combined into 2 senate districts. Quite a system.

In the first map, drawers packed Democratic voters in Fayetteville into a single, deeply blue district in order to manufacture a reliably Republican one. In the new map, that packing has been partially undone. The new District 19 is safely Democratic (D+11), but District 21 is also now highly competitive. This SD-21 is a 50/50 district with only roughly an R+1 lean. This is a clear improvement.


Another rather bizarre artifact of the county grouping process is Mecklenburg-Iredell. Since Iredell has only about 16% of the population of Mecklenburg, the grouping presented map-drawers with a prime opportunity for striking out at Democrats. And sure enough, that is what they did, drawing Democratic Senator Natasha Marcus into an R+30 seat with Republican Sen. Vickie Sawyer (SD-37). (Republican Senator Paul Newton evidently made Marcus an offer to save her seat if she would go along with their gerrymander elsewhere. Marcus refused.) This would have eliminated a strongly Democratic seat. In the new map, this brazen power-grab was reversed, making Marcus’s seat safe once again.

As we see in Wake with Sydney Batch (SD-17), Republican map drawers have clearly attempted to carve out districts where Republican candidates can feasibly compete even in deeply blue counties (though of course never do the same in deeply red ones). In Mecklenburg, we saw this in SD-41 in the southeastern part of the county. In the new map, this was reversed.


Overall, both of these maps are improvements over the first round. Both are still clearly tilted towards Republicans.

In the State House, if all “lean” seats were to break their expected way, it would create a 56D/64R legislature with a comfortable Republican majority. To win a majority of the chamber, Democrats overall would need to over-perform by 6-7 points in the two-party vote, which is highly unlikely for either party to ever do.

Likewise, in the State Senate, expected election results will produce another comfortable Republican majority only 2 seats shy of a supermajority. Democrats would need to overperform by 4-5 points of the two-party vote just to win a majority. While possible, this, too, is unlikely to happen.

Both maps thus remain a clear partisan gerrymander, if somewhat less aggressive than the last one. A “less aggressive partisan gerrymander” may, unfortunately, be the best that North Carolina can ask for today. Until the voters demand better of their elected representatives, brazen political power-grabs are the system we have.

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