As this article from 538 details, the 2020 election in North Carolina was held under newly redrawn maps. Districts for the U.S. House, state Senate, and state House seats were redrawn after a three-judge panel in state court ruled last year that the previous maps were unconstitutional and violated “citizens’ right to fair elections.”
The newly redrawn maps still had to have equal populations using data from the 2010 Census, but North Carolina’s population has changed substantially over the past decade.
In the past few days, we’ve received multiple questions about the current populations of these new, reconfigured districts. There are a few ways to do this – we’ve quickly put together one back-of-the-napkin estimate using the most accessible data available. (Caveat: this is likely close but not perfect for the reasons explained below – it will give you a reasonable estimate but not an exact answer.)
How we did this
Remember: congressional districts are drawn to have equal populations, while NC House and Senate districts can vary in size within 5% of equal population.
For a comparison of 2010 versus 2020 district sizes, ideal sizes (equal population), and deviation from ideal size, please see this file: NC_Districts_Difference_vs_Ideal_2010_2020.xlsx
North Carolina’s population as of July 1, 2020 was projected to be at 10,630,691. Divided by 13 congressional districts, this yields an ideal district size of 816,300.
Based on our estimates, twelve of the state’s thirteen districts have grown since 2010; the only district to lose population was the 1st congressional district. Primarily urban districts grew the fastest, with District 2 (central and southern Wake) and District 12 (all but southeastern Mecklenburg) projected to have the largest populations, with more than 900,000 residents.
Because congressional districts require equal population—and North Carolina is projected to get a 14th seat in the U.S. house based on results of the 2020 Census—all congressional districts will need to be redrawn in 2021.
Based on the projected population of just over 10.6 million, the ideal size for the 50 North Carolina Senate districts is 212,614. These can vary by up to 5%, meaning that districts can range between 201,983 and 223,244 individuals.
Our back of the envelope projections indicate that 16 NC Senate districts currently have too few residents, 14 have too many, and 20 are within the allowable range. The district with the largest projected population is District 8 (Bladen, Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender), with 250,539 residents. The district with the smallest projected population is District 3 (Beaufort, Bertie, Martin, Northampton, Vance, and Warren) with 176,428 residents.
Based on the projected population of just over 10.6 million, the ideal size for the 120 North Carolina House districts is 88,589. This can vary by up to 5%, meaning that districts can range between 84,160 and 98,019 individuals.
Our back of the envelope projections indicate that 40 NC House districts currently have too few residents, 38 have too many, and 42 are within the allowable range. The district with the largest projected population is District 17 (Brunswick) with 107,038 residents. The district with the smallest projected population is District 27 (Halifax and Northampton) with 71,096 residents.