Special Master 3: Return of the Special Master

The Special Master finished his maps this week and we've gone through them to get you all the juicy details.

The Special Master finished his new maps this week and we’ve gone through them to get you all the juicy details.

What happened again? A super quick history.

The NAACP-NC sued the state legislature for diluting votes of African-Americans, which is highly illegal (and highly unethical). A federal panel of judges told the legislature to redraw the maps. They did, but still tried to get away with same dirty tricks in a few districts, and also took the opportunity to go ahead and redraw some extra districts. The federal judges said “that’s it - we’ve had it with you all,” and hired Nathaniel Persily, Special Master, to redraw districts in Wake, Mecklenberg, Guilford, Bladen, Sampson, Wayne, Cumberland, and Hoke counties.

What rules did the special master have to abide by? Population, respect for precincts and municipal boundaries, compactness, contiguity, and avoiding pairing incumbents.

The Special Master followed traditional redistricting principles, and was actually directed not to use race except to double-check that his work abided by the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. The Special Master had to ensure that districts were as close as possible to the ideal population size, he had to avoid splitting precincts and municipalities when possible, create as compact and contiguous districts as possible, and avoided pairing incumbents when possible, at the request of the legislature. He did all this and still had more equitable districts for African-Americans without trying to meet predetermined goals for race! Very impressive. 

Tell me what I want to know - how many more districts are in play? 

NCInsider did an analysis using 2016 election data, and estimated that there could be as many as 8 districts at play - basically all of the districts redrawn by the Special Master, including one empty seat in a heavily democratic area in Greensboro (Senate District 28). These districts are all pretty close, though (except for Nelson Dollar’s...he’s toast):

  • Sen. Wesley Smith, Cumberland County, Senate District 19
  • Sen. Trudy Wade, Guilford County, Senate District 27
  • Rep. Chris Malone, Wake County, House District 35
  • Rep. Nelson Dollar, Wake County, House District 36
  • Rep. Linda Williams, Wake County, House District 37
  • Rep. Andy Dulin, Mecklenburg County, House District 104
  • Rep. Scott Stone, Mecklenburg County, House District 105

A big reason for more competitive districts is because the Special Master evened out what is known as the Black Voting Age Population in districts where African-American voters had been packed and cracked to dilute their voting power. See, the legislature was guilty of intentionally drawing some districts with a blatantly high Black Voting Age Population right next to districts that had very low Black Voting Age Populations. This ensured that African-American voters could only elect their desired candidates in as few districts as physically possible. The Special Master leveled the playing field across several districts. You can see the change in BVAP in the district images below.

How POed are the Republicans? Very. David Lewis, a Republican in the state legislature, accused the “so-called Special Master” (yes, he really said that) of drawing the maps to unfairly help democrats. However, the so-called Special Master was pretty tough on the maps submitted by the plaintiffs, as well. The plaintiffs (a.k.a. the Dems) submitted alternative maps to the courts in October, and the Special Master said that their maps were “noncompact”, they “redrew more districts than necessary to remedy the constitutional violations,” and that the plaintiffs did a “poor job of respecting municipal lines.” Someone get them some ice for that sick burn.