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Politics

Expert says GOP-drawn map is a ‘statistical outlier’ as NC redistricting trial begins

A North Carolina map is shown in Wake County Superior Court during a 2019 redistricting trial.
Gerry Broome
/
AP
FILE PHOTO: A North Carolina map is shown in Wake County Superior Court during a 2019 redistricting trial.

A fast-moving redistricting trial began Monday, designed to determine whether North Carolina's new congressional and legislative maps contain unlawful gerrymanders that must be redrawn or otherwise can be used in this year's elections.

Three state trial judges started hearing evidence offered by lawyers for plaintiffs in lawsuits that allege district boundaries approved by the Republican-controlled legislature in November are tainted by extreme partisanship and racial bias that make GOP majorities almost unbreakable. Republicans say the lines are lawful, crafted using a transparent process that avoided racial and partisan data.

Voting rights advocates have sued to overturn the maps recently enacted by North Carolina's GOP-majority legislature. They claim Republican lawmakers unconstitutionally gerrymandered political boundaries with extreme partisan bias.

Congressional and state legislative district maps that heavily favor Republicans defy the odds, according to expert testimony at the redistricting trial.

Jowei Chen, a University of Michigan Political Science Professor, compared the GOP-drawn Congressional map to a thousand computer-simulated plans. He found the enacted map to be a “statistical outlier,” giving Republicans 10 of 14 Congressional seats in a politically balanced state.

“And that it creates a level of Republican bias that cannot be explained by North Carolina's political geography or by the General Assembly's August adopted criteria,” Chen said.

Duke University quantitative analyst Jonathan Mattingly came to a similar conclusion comparing the state house and senate maps to thousands of non-partisan simulations.

"The enacted plan gives the Republican majority a super-majority even when every map in our ensemble would break that super-majority,” Mattingly said.

An attorney for the Republican defendants said lawmakers hewed to the criteria by splitting municipalities fewer times than Chen's simulations did.

North Carolina gained an additional House seat based on population growth in the 2020 census. Republicans currently hold eight of the state's 13 congressional seats, so the state's GOP remap could help the party take back the U.S. House.

The state Supreme Court told the judges to rule by Jan. 11. Appeals are expected to follow. This year's primary already has been delayed from March to May while these lawsuits are heard.

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