“I PROPOSE THAT we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats,” said North Carolina Rep. David Lewis, in 2016 in a legislative committee hearing, “because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”
This might be the most infamous gerrymandering confession ever — a rare moment of clarity exposing the GOP’s ambition to control the state’s map through redistricting. This year, Lewis’s statement was debated in the Supreme Court; in 2017, it was even cited by comedian John Oliver. And this week, the admission that state lawmakers intended to give an advantage to the Republican Party was at the root of a decision by a North Carolina state court that invalidated the state’s congressional map ahead of 2020.
But even Lewis’s bold acknowledgement understated the GOP’s redistricting capabilities, new documents obtained by The Intercept suggest. In fact, GOP strategists did prove that it was possible to draw a map with 11 or 12 Republican congressional seats — in one case, a partisan gerrymander that could have feasibly elected an all-white slate.
In 2016, Thomas Hofeller, the veteran redistricting mastermind, was tapped by Lewis and the North Carolina legislature to craft the state’s congressional lines. The original map, drawn in 2011 redistricting, had been thrown out for racially discriminatory intent. During that process, Hofeller created drafts of maps that would give Democrats only one or two seats in this competitive purple state. These never-before-seen draft maps are among the more than 70,000 previously unpublished documents and emails from Hofeller’s hard drives, obtained and reviewed by The Intercept. And there is evidence that he talked them over with Lewis, who chaired the state House of Representatives redistricting committee from 2011 until 2018.