What Nonpartisan Legislative Districts Look Like: First Thoughts on Special Master Nathaniel Persily’s Game-Changing New Maps | News

What Nonpartisan Legislative Districts Look Like: First Thoughts on Special Master Nathaniel Persily’s Game-Changing New Maps

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Special master Nathaniel Persily, who was appointed November 1 by a federal court to analyze and redraw North Carolina’s hyper-gerrymandered legislative districts, has released a draft plan ahead of his December 1 deadline and asked for feedback from the anti-gerrymandering plaintiffs and lawmakers.
  • Persily: “Underlying the Court’s prohibition on examining election returns or prioritizing incumbency is reliance on a bedrock principle that the Special Master’s Plan shall be construed in a nonpartisan fashion. That is not to say that the plan will not have partisan, incumbency-related, or other electoral effects—all redistricting plans do. Rather, the principles that guide the production of the plan must be nonpartisan in nature and the changes to the districts must be explainable on that basis.”
  • The N&O: “Persily redrew state Senate district lines in Hoke and Cumberland counties that avoids what he called a ‘jutting arm into Fayetteville’ supported by the Republican-led General Assembly and takes in the whole town of Spring Lake to the north. He redrew three Senate districts in Guilford County and House districts there as well. His map changes House districts in Bladen, Sampson and Wayne counties, as well as in Mecklenburg and Wake counties.”
  • N.C. Policy Watch: “At first glance, Persily’s maps are obviously different than GOP lawmakers’ initial redraw with more compact districts and less squiggly lines. He explains the changes in each district in the Monday order. … He moved House district 57, Guilford County, north and west to create a compact district in north Greensboro, the order states. Previously, the district retained ‘a backwards L shape’ along the eastern side of Greensboro, according to the Court, it perpetuates the racial predominance of its predecessor district by over-concentrating the African American population in the area.”
  • Persily released his plans early to “give the parties time to lodge objections and to make suggestions, as to unpairing incumbents or otherwise, that might be accommodated in the final plan to be delivered to the Court by December 1.” Several lawmakers look to be double-bunked under the new districts—meaning two incumbents will have to run against each other. “Persily did not take account incumbency in the ‘draft plan’ he released because the plaintiffs and legislative defendants only just released their incumbent lists last week.”

WHAT IT MEANS: More analysis is needed, but the most likely result of these districts would be more competitive races. And that would be a great thing for North Carolina democracy.

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