Editor’s note: This story was updated March 3 to correct competitive districts in the N.C. Senate.
A new partisan index for seats in the N.C. General Assembly shows a nearly even split between Republicans and Democrats headed into the midterm elections.
The 2022 Civitas Partisan Index puts 58 seats in the state House in the “safe,” “lean,” or “likely” GOP category, compared to 56 seats for Democrats. Six seats are in the “toss-up” category. In the Senate, 24 seats tend to favor Republicans, and 22 seats Democrats, with four seats toss-ups.
The CPI is modeled after the Cook Political Report Partisan Voting Index at the national level. Although the CPI does not predict elections, using the tool would have successfully predicted 94% of state legislative races in 2020.
On Feb. 23, a three-judge panel upheld redrawn maps for the state’s legislative races after Democrats challenged the original maps created by the GOP-controlled General Assembly. State legislative leaders are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the legal dispute over the new maps.
Dr. Andy Jackson, director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, noted that court-approved maps are much friendlier to Democratic candidates overall but fall short of creating more competitive districts across the board.
“If the courts’ goal was to help Democrats win more seats, they succeeded. They achieved that primarily by reducing the number of districts in urban areas where Republicans could effectively compete,” said Jackson. “For example, there were two Republican-leaning competitive districts in the Granville-Wake county cluster in the original Senate map. Now there are none.
“What the court-ordered maps do not do is make more competitive districts,” Jackson added. “The total number of competitive seats in the General Assembly, in which neither party has more than a five-percentage-point advantage, remained unchanged at 36.”
The most competitive House districts include District 20 (on the coast east of Wilmington), District 43 (in eastern Fayetteville), District 47 (in Robeson County), District 62 (in western Guilford County), District 74 (just west of Winston-Salem), and District 98 (north of Charlotte).
On the Senate side, competitive districts include District 4 (Wilson, Wayne, and Greene counties), District 7 (New Hanover County), District 21 (Cumberland and Moore counties), and District 24 (Hoke, Robeson, and Scotland counties).
The CPI suggests the following partisan breakdown between the 50 seats in the Senate and 120 seats in the House:
- 14 safe Democratic seats
- 3 likely Democratic seats
- 5 lean Democratic seats
- 4 toss-ups
- 2 lean Republican seats
- 5 likely Republican seats
- 17 safe Republican seats
- 33 safe Democratic seats
- 10 likely Democratic seats
- 13 lean Democratic seats
- 6 toss-ups
- 6 lean Republican seats
- 13 likely Republican seats
- 39 safe Republican seats
The path to a majority or supermajority remains more likely for Republicans compared to Democrats. To maintain a majority in the Senate, the GOP would need to win 22 likely or safe seats plus both Republican-leaning seats and two toss-up seats. By contrast, Democrats would need to win all their safe, likely, and lean seats plus all four toss-up seats.
Democrats’ path to a supermajority of 30 seats is even more challenging, requiring candidates to win an additional four seats: Both GOP-leaning seats and two likely-Republican seats. Republicans could secure a supermajority by picking up all the toss-up seats plus two Democratic-leaning seats.
The match-up is more competitive on the House side. Republicans could gain a supermajority by holding onto all their seats plus three toss-ups. Democrats would need to win all their seats plus five of the six toss-up seats.
According to Jackson, these dynamics mean that legislative races will be more vulnerable to wave elections.
The most surprising aspect of the new districts to Jackson? How the maps advantage Democrats in close races but are not more competitive broadly.
“Much of the complaining we heard about the original districts is that they were not responsive to different voting outcomes, but the new maps do little to address that,” he said. “What we did get was a small shift in the partisan lean of several districts in favor of Democrats.”