Another judicial rejection of state legislative maps could mean every district in Davie and Forsyth counties has to be redrawn for the 2020 election.
The reasoning, released Tuesday by a panel of three state judges: an "extreme partisan gerrymander," particularly affecting the five House and two Senate seats in Forsyth.
The judges' ruling was based in large part on expert testimony submitted on behalf of the plaintiffs, led by advocacy group Common Cause.
"The court gives weight to the analysis of plaintiffs’ experts and finds that ... the district boundaries are drawn almost perfectly," according to the ruling.
The reference to almost perfectly in the ruling is similar to the phrase “near surgical precision” used by a federal court when it struck down 2013 Republican redistricting maps, saying they used unconstitutional racial gerrymanders that targeted African-American voters, who often support Democrats.
In both instances, the courts said it appeared computer-generated data allowed GOP mapmakers to configure the racial and/or voting district components to an unfair party advantage.
The latest 357-page ruling says Senate District 31, held by GOP Sen. Joyce Krawiec, and House District 75, held by GOP Rep. Donny Lambeth, are among those in the state benefiting the most from gerrymandered maps.
"The (Republican) mapmaker packed Democratic voters into Senate District 32, thereby ensuring that Senate District 31 would be a safe Republican district. This packing occurred not only at the grouping level, but within Winston-Salem," according to the ruling.
"The map packs all of Winston-Salem’s most Democratic (census voting districts) into Senate District 32, and puts almost all of the city’s Republican-leaning (census voting districts) in Senate District 31."
In 2018, Krawiec defeated Democrat John Motsinger Jr., 58% to 42%. She ran unopposed in 2016.
"I disagree with the court decision, but I am prepared for another redrawing of the district," Krawiec said.
"I haven’t had a chance to review the court decision and evaluate the guidelines. I knew my district was one of the districts in question, and I’m prepared to represent my constituents whatever the change may be."
House Districts 74 and 75, held by Republicans Debra Conrad and Lambeth, respectively, include Democratic-leaning voting districts on the northern and southern sides of Winston-Salem.
"But both of those districts wrap around the city to include Republican-dominated (voting districts) on either side of Forsyth County," according to the ruling.
"Indeed, in order to join Republican (voting districts), House District 75 traverses an extremely narrow passageway on the border of Forsyth County."
Lambeth, with 53.1% of the vote, defeated Democratic challenger Dan Besse, who garnered 46.9%, in a heated race.
GOP Rep. Debra Conrad won 54.5% of the vote to Terri LeGrand's 45.5%.
"The court’s ruling is a major victory for democracy in North Carolina," Besse said.
"For the first time this decade, voters will once again have the chance to choose their representatives in fair elections, instead of politicians getting to choose their voters in rigged maps."
Besse said it's been "no secret that I have been actively considering running again in House District 75."
"I’m conferring with family, friends and advisers this week about how the court ruling may affect my decision. I expect to make an announcement within a few days."
Democratic voters 'packed in'
The judges also ruled that House District 73, which encompasses all of Yadkin County as well as a sliver of western Forsyth and is held by the GOP's Lee Zachary, is an "extreme partisan gerrymander." Democratic voters "were packed into" House Districts 71 and 72, held by Democrats Evelyn Terry and Derwin Montgomery, respectively, they said in the ruling.
The 2017 redistricting map added western Forsyth to Zachary's district and removed Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie.
"House District 73 includes all of Republican-leaning Yadkin County and just two Democratic-leaning (voting districts) on the west side of Winston-Salem, ensuring that it will be a safe Republican district," according to the ruling.
Zachary said Wednesday he was "not surprised in the least" that his district was identified in the ruling as being subject to redrawing.
House District 77, held by Howard, was also singled out as an example of gerrymandering. Howard's district was shifted south in 2017 to include more of Rowan County.