We’ve Got a Gerrymander!

Fri., Nov. 5: NC Republicans have selected their voters + schools face funding cuts + state labor commish objects to vaccine mandates

Quick note: I promised that my story about Durham’s election and public safety reform would come out yesterday, and it didn’t. It’s not out yet, either. It will probably go online today or tomorrow. I am watching it get edited in Google Docs as I write this, and let me tell you, that’s a weird feeling.


+3 TOP STORIES

1. Republicans Choose Their Voters

Republicans in the General Assembly approved new legislative and congressional maps yesterday, and—surprise—they give Republicans a huge advantage in a state Donald Trump won by less than 2 points.

From The News & Observer:

The new congressional map, for example, would be expected to give Republicans a 10-4 or 11-3 advantage in 2022. Democrats could expect to win the two seats that include Raleigh and Durham, one of the Charlotte-area seats and potentially the district in northeastern North Carolina that abuts the Triangle. Republicans would likely win the rest. …

Two Senate Democrats, Raleigh Sen. Jay Chaudhuri and Raeford Sen. Ben Clark, drew congressional maps that might be expected to lead to a 7-7 political split … but with some tossup seats that could go either way. Chaudhuri’s map has several highly competitive seats and a separate analysis, by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, considers it likely an 8-6 map in favor of Republicans.

Republicans declined Chaudhuri’s offer, with Rep. Destin Hall lecturing them about how “the problem is not the process, or these maps. Perhaps the problem is your ideas.” That’s something you say when you draw maps that ensure victory even when you get fewer votes, as happened in 2018.

  • The maps give Republicans 24 seats (out of 50) in the state Senate, along with five GOP leaners. In other words, if Republicans win all the races they’re expected to, they’re just one vote shy of a supermajority.

  • Dems get 17 safe seats. They have to sweep all nine competitive seats to squeeze out a thin majority.

  • It’s worse in the House. Republicans start with 55 safe seats, six shy of a majority, and 13 leaners. If they grab five of the Dem-leaning competitive seats, they win a supermajority. Meanwhile, Democrats need to claim nine of 13 Republican leaners for a majority.

Take a look at how the 14 congressional districts voted from 2016–20.

  • District 1: R 56–42

  • District 2: D 52–46

  • District 3: R 56–41

  • District 4: R 51–46

  • District 5: D 62–35

  • District 6: D 72–26

  • District 7: R 57–41

  • District 8: R 57–41

  • District 9: D 72–26

  • District 10: R 59–38

  • District 11: R 55–43

  • District 12: R 55–43

  • District 13: R 59–13

  • District 14: R 52–45

That’s one beautifully engineered gerrymander, if I do say so myself. Notice that the three solid Dem districts have overwhelming margins, while the nine solidly Republican districts have safe-but-not-massive margins. Democrats and Republicans both have districts they might lose in a bad year, so we’re looking at a map that lands somewhere between 11–3 and 9–5—and if Madison Cawthorn really shoots himself in the foot in District 14, maybe 8–6—but probably 10–4.

North Carolina Republicans are effectively trying to make Kevin McCarthy Speaker without an election. Of course, these maps are headed to the courts, and with the N.C. Supreme Court tilted in the Dems’ favor, these will likely get rejected.

RELATED: The U.S. Department of Justice sued Texas over the law it passed earlier this year restricting voting access.

From The New York Times:

The Justice Department’s lawsuit appears to focus on those restrictions governing what types of help poll workers can offer voters, including translation and other assistance. The law creates new civil and criminal penalties for poll workers who run afoul of the rules.


2. NC Schools Face Big Cuts

Because of enrollment declines in the aftermath of the pandemic, the state’s public schools face a budget cut of $132 million, NC Policy Watch reports.

Under state law and State Board policy, district budgets are reduced mid-year if enrollment falls short of anticipated levels. According to initial enrollment data released late last week, actual enrollment in the first month of school fell substantially below anticipated levels in 95 of the state’s 115 school districts. Unless there’s an odd uptick in enrollment in the next month’s data, these districts will see their state funding—already amongst the lowest in the nation – reduced by a further $132 million.

A final decision on budget reductions will not be made until data is collected for the second month of school.

Enrollment in traditional public schools has declined for several years, owing to the rising popularity of charters, private schools, and homeschooling. And some conservatives say any legislative action to avoid the cuts would simply be postponing an inevitable reckoning.

Per the N&O:

“Enrollment adjustments are a reality for school districts so they should budget accordingly,” Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation, said in an interview Thursday. “A hold harmless simply delays the inevitable budget adjustments that districts need to make because of their declining enrollments.”

RELATED: A member of the UNC-CH board of trustees offered a motion yesterday to ban the university from using race in assessing student applications. The rest of the board rejected it.


3. NC Labor Commissioner Objects to Vaccine Mandate

The state’s new labor commissioner, whose name is not Cherie Berry, has evidently decided that the best way for people to know he exists is to make a fuss about President Biden’s vaccine mandates.

Per WRAL:

[Josh] Dobson said the rules would create “an unnecessary burden” on employers, noting many are already having trouble filling vacant jobs and could also face losing staff who don't want to be vaccinated.

“I have talked to different interest groups, and they are afraid that up to 30 or 40 percent of their workforce is not going to get vaccinated—they're just going to go home and quit. And the shortages that we are facing right now, we cannot afford to do that,” he said.

The thing is, the rules don’t require vaccination. They say that people who aren’t vaccinated have to be tested weekly. And economists say those safeguards are as likely to bring people back to the office as they are to drive people away.