Wednesday, August 18, 2021

What Might The NC General Assembly County Clusters Look Like? Insights From the 2020 Census

By Christopher Cooper

Last week was a big one in the world of redistricting in North Carolina. The General Assembly's Joint Redistricting Committee adopted redistricting guidelines for 2021, and the U.S. Census Bureau released its long-awaited population estimates down to the Census Block level--the redistricting equivalent of releasing two blockbuster films in the same week. 

While the General Assembly had considerable latitude in developing redistricting criteria, they will be somewhat more constrained in which counties will be clustered together in redistricting the General Assembly, thanks to the "county clustering rule" (AKA the Stephenson criteria). Based on insights developed in consultation with group of researchers, last week I speculated a bit about what the Census data and the county clustering rule might mean for redistricting. Now that the official data are released, we can gain a more accurate perspective on what might be in store.

Using the new Census data, and a code developed by Jonathan Mattingly, Greg Herschlag and a group of mathematicians from Duke University's Quantifying Redistricting Group, a team of researchers (including Mattingly, Herschlag, Blake Esselstyn from Frontwater, LLC and Mapfigure Consulting, Carolina Demography's Rebecca Tippett, and me) laid out the potential county clusters (both those that are all but certain and those where the mapmakers may have more choice) that will guide the redistricting process in North Carolina's General Assembly. 

We also discussed the potential for a few incumbents to be "double bunked," not by mapmaker intent, but as a casualty of the Stephenson criteria. Please see this link from Duke's Quantifying Gerrymandering web site for the report, and please keep an eye on the Quantifying Gerrymandering, Carolina Demography, districks, and Old North State Politics sites for more over the coming weeks and months. 


Chris Cooper is the Madison Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs at Western Carolina University. He tweets at @chriscooperwcu