Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original posting to reflect that the information provided is based on data research and the writer’s analysis.
North Carolina has grown large enough over the last decade to earn a 14th congressional seat, the U.S. Census Bureau announced today in a news release. That seat will be contested during next year’s 2022 congressional elections.
The announcement came as the U.S. Census Bureau completed data processing for the first 2020 Census results. Its state population counts are used to apportion the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the 50 states. As population increases or decreases in each state, the number of seats to represent it changes.
North Carolina was one of five states to pick up a seat, while Texas picked up two. Seven states lost a congressional seat, including New York and California.
Complete data is expected to be released Aug. 16, paving the way for the General Assembly to begin creating new maps for the 14 congressional districts, all 120 N.C. House seats, and all 50 N.C. Senate seats.
The 14 seats are the most the state has had. North Carolina had 13 seats in the House from 1813 to 1843 and again since 2003. In total, North Carolina now shows an overall population of 10.45 million people. The 2010 figure was 9.5 million. North Carolina remains the ninth-most-populous state and grew by 918,465 people, or 9.6%, between 2010 an 2020. N.C.’s growth outpaced the U.S. as a whole, which had a 7.4% population growth rate.
The General Assembly has sole authority over redistricting. The governor can neither approve of, nor veto, redistricting maps.
“Redistricting can be a tough process under any circumstances, but it gets even more complicated when you add in a new congressional seat,” said Mitch Kokai, John Locke Foundation senior political analyst. “Rather than tweaking existing district lines, lawmakers have to decide how and where to create a whole new district. The ripple effects could be felt in congressional districts across the state.”
As of now the 2022 primaries are set to take place on March 8. As reported by The Associated Press, North Carolina election dates for 2022 likely won’t be altered despite anticipated delays in receiving data needed to perform the once-a-decade redistricting, the General Assembly’s top Republicans said recently. Candidate filing is planned for December.
With these numbers, North Carolina will also have 16 presidential electors, up from 15, beginning in 2024. The Electoral College is the group of presidential electors required by the U.S. Constitution to form every four years for the sole purpose of electing the president and vice president. Each state appoints electors, equal in number to its congressional delegation.
North Carolina has eight Republican members of the U.S. House and five Democrats, after courts ordered new maps drawn for the 2020 election. Beginning with elections in 2014 and again 2016, and 2018, North Carolina elected 10 Republican members of the U.S. House and three members who were Democrats.
In examining the early data it appears to Carolina Journal, and this is speculation, that the best-case scenario for Democrats would be a 9-5 GOP map that leaves all Democrat incumbents with blue-leaning districts, and the GOP protecting all eight of its member districts, while drawing a GOP-friendly 14th seat. The worst case would be a new map in which voters would be likely to select 10 GOP members and four Democrats to represent the state.
According to Cook Political, when it comes to control of the U.S. House;
“Republicans’ biggest redistricting weapons are Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina – and they could conceivably pick up all five seats they need for the majority from those four alone.”
Cook Political predicts the GOP would pick up 1.5 House seats from NC, which would reflect either a 9-5 or 10-4 map. UVA Center for Center for Politics predicts nationally the GOP will gain a minimum of one seat out of North Carolina.
In a 10-4 scenario, it is possible the districts of Rep. Alma Adams in the Charlotte area, Reps. David Price and Deborah Ross in the Triangle area, and Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s eastern North Carolina district would be largely retained for Democrats, with Republicans targeting the Greensboro-area district of first-term Democrat Rep. Kathy Manning.
The new 14th District could possibly be carved out of the Charlotte suburbs, including parts of Mecklenburg, Cleveland and Gaston Counties, but those decisions can’t begin to take shape until county-by-county numbers are released in late summer. House Speaker Tim Moore, among many others, is rumored to be thinking of running for Congress. He is from Cleveland County. First elected to the General Assembly in 2002, Moore is serving his fourth term as the presiding officer of the House and is the longest-serving Republican House speaker in North Carolina history.
With heavy population growth on North Carolina’s southern coast, another possibility is that the 7th District could be more of a coastal district, with a new district taking in some of Wake County and perhaps anchored in Johnston. This is speculation that could change once county-by-county population numbers are release late in the summer.
Nationally, Republicans are expected to make small gains through congressional redistricting. If the 2020 election were to be held again under the new apportionment, Joe Biden would have had won with 303 Electoral College votes, rather than 306.
Apportionment has made Texas the big winner of two new congressional seats. Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Montana, and Oregon all picked up one new member of Congress.
Losing a congressional seat after a population drop were New York, California, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. This is the first time California has ever lost a seat in the U.S. House due to a population decrease.