How redistricting will shape political representation in Charlotte

How redistricting will shape political representation in Charlotte

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

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This story was updated on Nov. 8 to reflect the approved redistricting maps.

City and county leaders finalized the maps that determine political representation at the local level for the next decade.

What’s happening: Charlotte City Council and the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners conducted redistricting following the results of the 2020 census. The census results typically come in late March but were delayed this year until August due in large part to the pandemic.

  • City council voted 10-1 to approve a new map Monday, despite protests from the Hidden Valley neighborhood over being moved into a new district.
  • Commissioners voted to endorse a map last week.

Why it matters: Charlotte has changed dramatically since the 2010 census, and now we have some imbalances in political representation. The city’s population, for instance, surged from 731,424 in the 2010 census to 874,579 a decade later.

  • The goal of redistricting is to fix those imbalances — and to make sure that each person’s vote is weighted equally.

Of note: Of course, since politicians determine those maps, the decisions are inherently political and almost always controversial.

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Below is a breakdown of the maps the city and county approved. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education is also underway with redistricting, and has held several public hearings recently.

City Council

Council considered three maps. Each would have moved people from the districts in the western and northern parts of the city (2, 3 and 4) to the east, Uptown and just north of center city and south Charlotte (1, 5 and 6).

  • District 7 in Ballantyne, currently represented by Republican Ed Driggs, will remain largely unchanged, because its population is about the right size.

Between the lines: The map that city council OK’d on Monday makes the most changes demographically to District 1. It’s currently represented by Democrat Larken Egleston, but he’s giving up the seat to run at-large in the next council election.

  • Under the new map, the district will go from being 26% Black, to around 1/3 Black. The share of the district that is white would fall by 9%.

    Yes, but: The historically Black Hidden Valley neighborhood, one of the largest neighborhoods in the city and one of the areas being moved into District 1, protested the map at the Government Center on Monday. The community is currently located in District 4, which is over 40% Black.

    • At a recent city council meeting, residents said they fear their voting power would be diminished with the shifts.
    • “District 1 has voted for all white candidates; District 4 has voted for all Black candidates,” Hidden Valley resident Cedric Dean told city council. “We can never be a community of interest with District 1.”
    • Dean and fellow resident and former City Council candidate Charlene Henderson filed a lawsuit claiming the city’s maps are racially discriminatory and unconstitutional.

    What they’re saying: City officials argue that under the new map, Black voters, including those from Hidden Valley, will have more influence to shape an open race in District 1.

    The new City Council district map. Courtesy of the city of Charlotte.

    The city had to decide which voters to take from the more populated districts and move to the less populated ones, Mac McCarley, former city attorney and a partner with law firm Parker Poe, tells me. The city contracted with him to draw up the maps.

    • The districts also have to be contiguous. That left just a handful of precincts, or voting districts, that could be moved from one district to another, including Hidden Valley.

    There are several other maps that were reviewed, though one (option A) was intended to be more of an exercise in showing the least changed option, city leaders have said.

    County Commission

    The Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners considered three maps, which range from moving just one precinct to 60. In their final vote, commissioners backed the map that makes the fewest changes in a 6-2 decision.

    • It shifts an area in the east of District 2, represented by Vilma Leake, into District 5, represented by Laura Meier. All of the commissioners are Democrats.

    The approved Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners map. Courtesy of Mecklenburg County

    Yes, but: The third option, map C, drew some pushback due to the substantial rearrangement of the boundaries of the current districts.

    • Colette Forrest, a longtime activist and former chairperson of the Black Political Caucus, said in an email blast that the changes, in particular to District 4, amounted to “a concerted effort to dilute the power of Black Voters and reduce the number of Black Elected Officials.”
    • District 4 is represented by Democrat Mark Jerrell. Map C would move the traditionally more Republican towns of Matthews and Mint Hill into his district.

    What’s next: The City Council election will take place in spring 2022, and the commissioners are up in fall 2022.

    Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to note that the map shifts an area in the east of District 2, represented by Vilma Leake, into District 5, represented by Laura Meier, not the other way around.

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