The List: 4 takeaways from Nathaniel Persily’s redistricting do-over

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Image courtesy of Jeffrey Sykes
  1. Racial gerrymanders to nonpartisan redistricting

Nathaniel Persily, a California law professor, was appointed by the federal courts to redraw Senate District 28 and House District 57 in Guilford County after they were found to be “unconstitutional racial gerrymanders” in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. We got a bonus in the draft plan released on Tuesday: Nonpartisan maps. “This is not to say that the plan will not have partisan, incumbency-related, or other electoral effects — all redistricting plans do,” Persily explained. “Rather, the principles that guide the production of the plan must be nonpartisan in nature and the changes to the districts must be explainable on that basis.”

2. A compact district that covers most of Greensboro

The proposed Senate District 28 looks like something we’ve never seen in a redistricting process — an almost perfect circle that maximizes compactness and is “contained almost completely within the city of Greensboro and is made up of whole precincts.” The map shifts some Democratic-leaning areas near the airport into District 27, while swapping more conservative, affluent white areas in northwest Greensboro into District 28. While urban District 28 most likely remains Democratic while the suburban and rural District 27 stays Republican, but the new map makes them each slightly more competitive.

3. Nonpartisan and color-blind House districts

To address the courts’ concern that District 57 over-concentrates African Americans, Persily moves the district lines west and north to incorporate predominantly white areas from Kirkwood up to Bur-Mil Park. Two additional districts — 58 and 61 — are drawn within Greensboro incorporating a broad spectrum of racial and wealth demographics. Although the map was drawn without consideration to partisan advantage, in effect it clearly allows Democrats to pick up a House seat in Guilford, but they’re so color-blind that it arguably make it more difficult for a black candidate to prevail in the county’s four Democratic leaning districts.

4. Justify yourselves, incumbents

The Persily plan doesn’t completely ignore the custom of protecting incumbents, but he makes it clear that it’s not going to be the priority. By releasing this draft plan in advance of his Dec. 1 deadline, Persily cleverly shifts the onus onto the lawmakers. Persily gives the Republican-controlled General Assembly — the defendants in this lawsuit filed against the state by citizens — until Friday to submit briefs, suggesting, “The parties are encouraged to include in these submissions suggestions as to how incumbents shall be unpaired without degrading the underlying features of the plan, as specified in the court order.” The new proposed maps place several lawmakers in the same districts — most notably, Republican Trudy Wade and Democrat Gladys Robinson in the new Senate District 27.