NC Inches Closer to Ending Gerrymandering Battle. But a Fight Remains.

Organizations and individuals gathered outside the US Supreme Court in 2019 argue the manipulation of district lines is the manipulation of elections. Gerrymandering has been a major concern in North Carolina for decades running. (Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

By Michael McElroy

February 23, 2022

We may be closer to a resolution, but Gov. Roy Cooper offered a blistering criticism of a state Senate legislative voting map he calls “blatantly unfair.” 

North Carolina finally has voting maps that will decide who represents us in the state legislature and in Congress. Probably.

A panel of three stage judges on Wednesday, two Republicans and a Democrat, accepted the State Senate and House maps lawmakers redrew last week. The state Supreme Court ruled the first versions lawmakers passed were unconstitutional gerrymanders – in essence drawn intentionally to give Republicans an unfair advantage in a highly competitive state. 

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The new maps could result in more competitive districts in both the House and Senate. GOP dominance in the last decade has all but eliminated the chances for reforms to voting rights, minimum wages, Medicaid expansion, and other key issues that are broadly supported by the public but opposed by Republican lawmakers.

But the panel of judges rejected the Congressional map provided by the legislature, ruling it was still too tilted. Instead, as directed by the Supreme Court ruling, the panel left the task to an agreed-upon set of outside experts.

That map is also expected to make for more competitive races.

All parties have until tonight at 5 p.m. to appeal the new maps to the state Supreme Court.

The timing is going to be tight.

Candidates in the 2022 primary elections have to get their formal filing paperwork in by tomorrow (Thursday) and they can’t do that until they know which district they are eligible to run in.

While none of the parties to the case have issued a response as of yet, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, criticized the state Senate map the panel accepted.

Tim Moore, the NC House Speaker, said he would appeal the judges’ ruling on the Congressional map. 

While the NC House had strong bipartisan support for the map it redrew, Republicans in the state Senate passed their map over widespread objection from Democrats.

Still, the new maps, as of now, put the state closer to a resolution.

“The overall representation of the state in Congress is going to align more closely to the statewide vote totals,” Eric Heberlig, a UNC-Charlotte political scientist, told WRAL on Wednesday. 

“You’re going to have relatively even numbers of Democrats and Republicans representing the state in Congress rather than the lopsided Republican majority that we’ve seen over the last decade.”


  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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