Last Updated September 15, 2003
108th Lineup: 7 R, 6 D
107th Lineup: 7 R, 5 D
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North Carolina won a 12th House seat in the 1990 Census and, quite unexpectedly, a 13th seat in the 2000 Census. It beat out Utah for the latter by just 856 people, and because its apportionment population includes some 18,000 U.S. troops and diplomats who claim North Carolina as their home, Utah filed a lawsuit arguing that its apportionment population should be credited with Mormon missionaries overseas who claim Utah as their home. But in April 2001 a three-judge federal panel ruled unanimously against Utah and in November 2001 the Supreme Court affirmed that decision without opinion.
In the 1990s, North Carolina was the epicenter of race-based redistricting litigation, home to a legal controversy that has gone up to the U.S. Supreme Court four times. In 1992 the Justice Department, under the prevailing interpretation of the Voting Rights Act, required the state to create two black-majority districts--difficult because North Carolina has no concentrations of blacks as large as those in Georgia or Texas. So the Democratic legislature drew a plan with a jagged-boundaried 1st District in east Carolina and a 12th District that extended (sometimes just along the median strip of I-85) from Gastonia through Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Greensboro to Durham. In June 1993 the Supreme Court in Shaw v. Reno, focusing on the 12th, ordered the plan re-examined. On remand a three-judge federal panel upheld the plan in August 1994. But in June 1996 the Supreme Court declared the 12th unconstitutional and sent it back to the three-judge panel, which ruled it had to be redrawn by April 1997. In March 1997 the legislature agreed to a new plan that smoothed out the lines but, in a spirit of bipartisan compromise, left the districts much as they were. The 1st and 12th Districts, both formerly 57% black, were now 50% and 47% black, respectively (measuring by the 1990 Census). A different three-judge panel threw out that plan in April 1998. In May 1998 the legislature passed a third plan which further reduced the size of the 12th District: In the first plan it stretched from Gastonia to Durham, in the second from Charlotte to Greensboro, in the third from Charlotte to Winston-Salem. The state appealed to the Supreme Court and argued for adoption of the 1997 plan. In May 1999 the Supreme Court remanded the case for trial, and in March 2000 the district court ruled that the 1997 districts were unconstitutional. That order was stayed by the Supreme Court, and the 2000 elections were held under the 1998 plan. Three weeks after the election, the Supreme Court heard argument on the case again, and in April 2001 ruled 5-4 that the 1997 districts could stand. The issue was arguably academic in North Carolina, since new lines were drawn for the 2002 election, based on the 2000 Census, which gave the state 13 rather than 12 districts.
Democratic legislators created their plans for 2002 with the foregoing in mind. The state House and Senate passed the same plan in November 2001; in North Carolina the governor does not have a veto on redistricting bills. The plan created a new 13th District seat in the northern Piedmont which leaned Democratic in state elections, though it was even in the 2000 presidential race; the district ended up electing Democrat Brad Miller, not coincidentally the chairman of the Senate redistricting committee. The plan significantly weakened 8th District Republican Congressman Robin Hayes. It marginally improved the Republican-leaning 2d and 7th Districts seats held by Democrats Bob Etheridge and Mike McIntyre. It created six heavily Republican districts and three solidly Democratic districts, with the other four districts tailored to the needs of local Democrats. Republicans filed suit even before the plans were passed. But while their arguments about the Democratic plans for redistricting state legislative seats prevailed in the state Supreme Court, their case against the congressional district lines was dropped after the Justice Department approved the maps and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene. But the case against the legislative districts did cause a delay of the primary from May to September and the legislature's cancellation of the runoff required if no candidate got 40% of the vote.
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