City Council Committee Kicks Off Redistricting in Charlotte
Britt Clampitt
redistricting the Charlotte skyline
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 7, 2021) — The Charlotte City Council’s Redistricting Ad Hoc Committee is beginning the process known as redistricting by redrawing City Council district boundaries and balancing the population of each district.

In July, Mayor Vi Lyles appointed four City Council members to the committee, including two at-large and two district members:

  • Council Member Malcolm Graham, District 2 representative and committee chair.
  • Council Member Dimple Ajmera, at-large representative.
  • Council Member Gregg Phipps, at-large representative.
  • Council Member Ed Driggs, District 7 representative.
The City of Charlotte has also contracted with Charlotte-area law firm Parker Poe and land planning firm N-Focus to assist with legal, demography and geographic information system services throughout the redistricting process.

The committee first met on Aug. 23 and again on Tuesday. Its next meeting will be Sept. 20. All committee meetings are available to watch on the city’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

Why is Charlotte Redistricting?
Charlotte is redistricting as required by law after a decennial census when local district population numbers have changed significantly. These population imbalances may go against the “one person, one vote” legal principle of ensuring all districts are about the same size in population.

According to the rough, local-level 2020 census data released in August 2021, Charlotte’s total population of 879,188 divided across seven City Council districts should equal about 125,298 people per district. However, district populations are currently:
  • District 1: 114,285 residents.
  • District 2: 133,399 residents.
  • District 3: 142,218 residents.
  • District 4: 133,819 residents.
  • District 5: 116,618 residents.
  • District 6: 113,719 residents.
  • District 7: 125,130 residents.
  • A map showing the boundaries of the seven Charlotte City council districts
    Current City Council districts as of August 2021

Why is Charlotte Redistricting Now?
The process is starting now because municipalities can only redraw districts after a census or an annexation involving a significant population change. Charlotte last updated its district boundaries after the 2010 census. More than ten years later and based on the most recent census data, the city is faced with population imbalances among the City Council districts.

What Should Districts Look Like?
Using criteria that the City Council considered on June 28 and are informed by redistricting efforts after the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the Redistricting Ad-Hoc Committee on Tuesday approved a set of criteria that will be considered when redrawing district maps.

The most important criteria for redistricting:
  • Districts must have substantially equal population (“one person, one vote” rule).
  • Districts should be reasonably compact.
  • District boundaries may follow neighborhood boundaries or the boundaries of areas containing residents sharing similar interests.
Criteria of secondary importance for redistricting:
  • District boundaries may follow precinct boundaries.
  • District boundaries may be drawn considering the race of district residents, as long as race is not the predominant motivating factor.
  • Districts most likely to be impacted by future annexations or growth rates may be smaller to minimize impact of future annexations on future redistricting.
  • District boundaries may be drawn to avoid contests between incumbents.
Committee members voted Tuesday to remove two criteria previously discussed related to partisan balance:
  • District boundaries may be drawn to create or maintain representative balance between major political parties. (This is the only additional criterion recommended by the Citizens Advisory Committee on Governance in its 2020 report.)
  • When possible, districts should have relatively even partisan balance.
During the committee’s Tuesday meeting, Graham and other committee members said that based on population numbers, it would be nearly impossible for the city to achieve partisan balance and the committee should not set up false expectations about achieving it.

Under the remaining approved criteria and available census data, preliminary guidance from the city’s consultants, Parker Poe and N-Focus, suggests the city could focus on shifting some portion of the populations in districts 2, 3 and 4 to districts 1, 5 and 6. Because of its location and its size – already in general compliance with the required district size – District 7 boundaries may remain unchanged.

How Will Redistricting Impact the City’s Next Elections?
The U.S. Census Bureau announced earlier this year that the release of 2020 census data would be delayed from March to August and September. The delay pushed statewide redistricting efforts to the fall of 2021. The North Carolina General Assembly also passed legislation delaying municipal elections until spring 2022.

Charlotte’s municipal primary election will be held March 8, 2022, and the municipal general election will be on April 26, 2022.

Under law, the Charlotte City Council must review census data, adopt revised districts as needed and provide those districts to the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections by Nov. 17. If the city meets that deadline, candidates for district City Council seats can file for office beginning Dec. 6.

The Redistricting Ad Hoc Committee and City Council are working under the following timeline:
  • Oct. 5: The redistricting committee will receive public comments and input on proposed, revised district maps being considered by the committee.
  • Oct. 18: The City Council will hold a public hearing on proposed, revised district maps.
  • Nov. 8: The City Council will vote to adopt revised district maps based on 2020 census data.
  • Nov. 12: The city will notify the local board of elections as to whether final revised maps will be available by Nov 17.
  • Nov. 17: The city’s deadline to provide adopted district maps to the board of elections, in accordance with law.
If the city does not provide a redistricting plan to the board of elections by Nov. 17, the new deadline for the City Council to adopt and provide revised districts to the elections board becomes Dec. 17. The opening day for candidates to file then moves to Jan. 3, 2022.

How Will the City Receive Public Input?
Public input is key in redistricting. State law mandates that municipalities undergoing redistricting hold a public hearing after the 2020 census data is released but before revised districts are adopted. The law also says municipalities may seek public input before census data is released.

Proposed district maps should be available on the city’s website ahead of the Oct. 5 public comment session. Information about how to participate in the public comment session and additional public input opportunities will be available soon.

“One of my goals as the committee chair is to be as transparent as possible in terms of what we do when we do it and why we're doing it,” Graham said at the committee’s first meeting.