Red State? Blue State? That Depends On Who Draws The Lines

12 mins read
One of the North Carolina maps drawn by the author, that resulted in 11 Democratic Congressional Districts and 2 Republican Districts.

So, we have certainly had more than our share of adventure in North Carolina, concerning the District maps!  Three different maps have been in use just since I moved here in August of 2014…I am now in the third different Congressional District in the last five years, and I am not the one who moved…even though my house DOES have wheels!

In fact, I had intended to run for NC House in 2018…and found myself gerrymandered out of the Districts I had wanted to run in.  They used the very first streets east and north of my residence, to move me from two Republican Districts into two Democratic ones…respectively the Districts held by Darren Jackson, and Dan Blue.

Because I felt that breaking the Supermajority was more important, I graciously bowed out of the 2018 race, choosing not to Primary an incumbent Democrat, even though, honestly, I have my issues with both men, for their failure to truly address issues impacting my transgender community.  But breaking that Supermajority was crucial, and I was not going to throw a monkey wrench into the works. Too much was at stake for my community.

At stake, primarily was HB-142, due to sunset Dec 1, 2020.  The people elected in 2018 are going to be in office when that happens.  To my view, it was essential that the GOP not hold a Supermajority when that happened.  I fully expect, next year, for the GOP to pass legislation to extend the Moratorium. And I expect it to pass.  I further expect Governor Cooper to veto such legislation. He promised, when he ran in 2016, to help my community.  So far, matters have been made worse for my community in North Carolina. Now, if the GOP still had a Supermajority, they could close ranks, over-ride the veto, and we transgender would literally never have rights in North Carolina.

So this is a way in which gerrymandering affects me.  Doubtless there are issues that impact you as strongly as HB-2 and HB-142 did me.  And why you should be interested in this process. I contend that gerrymandering is bad, no matter which Party engages in it.  One of our most sacred rights as citizens…is the right to cast a ballot…and one which matters…that we may hold our elected officials accountable.  My official campaign position, by the way is to pass legislation similar to HB-69 which died in committee this year. It is beyond time, as I stated at Public Hearing in September, to take the map-drawing duties out of the hands of the elected officials with a vested interest in the outcome, and turn them over to a non-partisan citizens commission who will produce a map that the Legislature may then vote on, without Amendments.

Of course, I was also impacted by gerrymandering in my aborted 2018 House candidacy.  Rep. David Lewis, when asked about this by a reporter…denied that the maps had deliberately gerrymandered me or any other non-incumbent candidate.  To which I say, ask Matt Calabria about that! They literally drew right around his house! Because I live in a manufactured home community, they could not do that to me…so they cut my entire community out of our previous Districts.

One of the cornerstones of democracy, is the ability of citizens to hold their representatives accountable.  Of course, we know that the NC-GOP preaches “personal responsibility” but is in fact allergic to being held accountable.  And they do not believe in democracy, as witnessed by the four month long dog-and-pony show we were treated to this year, over the Governor’s budget veto…and in the process teachers and many others were taken as political hostages.

One position my campaign is taking is that, if elected, I will propose a rules change in the Senate that – since the Governor has ten days to veto legislation, the Senate will have ten days to over-ride it…or the veto stands.  They do NOT get to treat us to a four month long dog and pony show, and they do not get to subvert democracy. Senator Berger continued to refuse to hold votes on the over-ride, because our NC Democrats stood ##21Strong to prevent the veto over-ride.

The NC-GOP made it clear that they were not interested in taking a vote that they knew would not turn out the way they wanted…when they refused to take a vote with all fifty Senators in attendance.  Sen. Tillman, himself a former Social Studies teacher, incidentally…remarked to Sen. Jackson that they would vote when they wanted to…and expressed a wish that Sen. Jackson be absent when that vote was taken.

To refuse to vote…because you know you won’t like the result…is NOT democracy!  Why even bother having a vote at all? Of course, that is what the NC-GOP would prefer.  No votes…unless they go the way of the NC-GOP…and that is not democracy, nor is it accountability!

SO…is North Carolina a red state or a blue state?  Most people outside this state would view us as a red state, and with good reason, seeing our Congressional delegation is 10R to 3D.  Rep. David Lewis even said that the only reason it WAS 10R to 3D was because he could not find a way to make it 11-2!

Recently, we got new maps that appear to predict a result of 8R to 5D…better, but still not reflective of our purple state.  It should be 7-6 either way, or better, 6-6 with a tops up…or even more tossups.

Recently, I discovered a program online called Dave’s Redistricting.  I warn you this is addictive as hell! It gives you a chance to try your hand at drawing maps.  And it is NOT as easy as some would believe. So I tried my hand. For the first two maps, I did not use any Partisan data (which you can get in Dave’s Redistricting, by the way.)  My rules were simple: Roughly equal population across Districts, with a variation of no greater that ½ of one percent. No partisan or race data. Try to make the Districts as regularly-shaped and compact as possible within these parameters, and avoid County splits where possible.

So this is my first attempt:

This resulted in a map that predicted 7R to 6D, and it created 3 Majority-Minority Districts.

The second was even better:

Result: 6D and 6R with one Tossup.

So then, I decided to try using Partisan data, to debunk the Republicans claim that the best they could do was 8R to 5D.  Admittedly they were supposedly not using Partisan data…but let’s face it…we all know where the Dems in NC live, and where the Republicans live!

I got two maps that both predicted an outcome of 8D to 5R…the second map below also created 1 Majority-Minority District.

Notice in all four maps the Districts are as compact as population allows for…and they are fairly regularly shaped.  So then, in an exercise in ridiculousness…I wanted to see how badly I could totally gerrymander things. So I set about creating a map, using partisan data, and the only rule was roughly equal population. 

This is what I got:

THIS map results in ELEVEN Dems to 2 GOP!

So…again, as an exercise in ridiculousness, I decided to try to gerrymander the state as Republican as I could.  And I out-Republicanned the Republicans. I came up with that 11-2 map Rep. Lewis wanted so badly. That map will not be posted here as I do not wish to give them ideas!

SO…is North Carolina a red state?  Or is it a blue state? That does not depend on who you ask…but rather who draws the lines.  In truth, by popular vote numbers, we are in fact a very purple state. Of course, part of our problem in NC is that, as in most states, liberals/Democrats tend to cluster in cities where GOP tend to rule the rural areas.  So, by land area, they always have more.

In most states, there are 3-4 major urban centers, usually, and that is where your blue districts wind up being.  North Carolina is unique: We have at least six major urban areas strung across the state. This makes North Carolina particularly easy to gerrymander either way.  You can crowd the Democrats into few districts (packing) and you can dilute Democrats in areas to minimize their chances (cracking.)

I believe that, with 2020 coming, and with it, likely a 14th District for North Carolina, it is imperative we act now, to remove the map-drawing responsibilities from the elected officials who have proved that they cannot place their own self-interest aside in favor of the interests of the citizens of North Carolina.

One of the most sacred rights…and the thing that makes democracy work…is the right of citizens to cast a ballot that matters, enabling them to hold their elected officials accountable.  It is beyond time we were able to do so in North Carolina!

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First openly-transgender candidate for State Legislature in the history of North Carolina, Angela is 48 years old and lives in Wendell, NC in a single-wide mobile home. Her mother lives in her home with her. Angela is running to represent the voices that have not been being heard by our Legislature, that their challenges may be addressed.

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