Redistricting and Orange County

Note: All the following maps were made by my resident GIS specialist, Jason Baker. Use the checkboxes to toggle the display of old/new districts.

The events in state politics over the last two weeks have served as a reminder that election season is now here. Candidate filing for the May primary starts today. This will also be the first election to use the newly drawn maps for the NC House, NC Senate, and US House districts. These maps alter (rather drastically, in some cases) how Orange County is represented at the state and federal level, so I thought it would be helpful to provide a summary of the changes in each district.

NC House:
Right now, Orange County is divided into three House districts. District 54 is held by House Minority Leader Joe Hackney. It contains the five southernmost precincts in the county (White Cross, St. Johns, Damascus, Kings Mill, and Dogwood Acres), all of Chatham County, and the easternmost portion of Moore County. District 56 is held by Rep. Verla Insko. It covers all of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, as well as Patterson precinct (most of which is outside Chapel Hill town limits). District 50, represented by Bill Faison, contains the rest of the precincts in the county, and all of Caswell County.

If the new maps are held up by the courts, Orange County will only have two House districts. The first is district 29, which will include all of Carrboro and most of Chapel Hill (Weaver Dairy, Weaver Dairy Satellite, Booker Creek, Cedar Falls, Eastside, and Patterson precincts are excluded). In addition to these precincts, the district travels up the Old 86 corridor (Hogan Farms and Coles Store) to include Hillsborough and its environs (Hillsborough, West Hillsborough, Grady Brown, and Cameron Park precincts). This places Rep. Hackney and Rep. Insko in the same district. Rep. Hackney announced last week that he would not seek reelection, which leaves the door open for Rep. Insko to run again. Rep. Hackney owns land in Chatham County, and he would technically have been able to run in District 31, which contains part of Lee County, and all of Chatham, if he had changed his voter registration to Chatham before November of last year. I assume he decided to fight the redistricting in the courts rather than pursue changing districts.

District 50 still continues to be an Orange County district, though it is quite different that before. It contains the precincts not covered in district 29, as well as all of northern and eastern Durham County. Since Bill Faison has decided to run for Governor, the seat is up for grabs, and it is likely that one or more of our elected officials will run. Current elected officials who live in the district are: County Commissioners Earl McKee, Bernadette Pelissier, Barry Jacobs, Valerie Foushee, and Pam Hemminger; Chapel Hill Town Council member Laurin Easthom; Orange County School Board members Donna Coffey, Stephen Halkiotis, Anne Medenblik, Debbie Piscitelli, and Brenda Stephens; Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board members Mia Burroughs, Gregory McElveen, Jamezetta Bedford, and Mike Kelley. I haven’t looked to see which Durham officials live in the district, but I expect one or more of them will enter the race as well.

NC Senate:
District 23 is our current senate district, which is represented by Ellie Kinnaird. It covers all of Orange and Person counties. After redistricting, the district no longer contains Person County (which is now in district 22 with Caswell and part of Durham), and instead includes Chatham County (which used to be part of district 18). This places Sen. Kinnaird in the same district as Sen. Bob Atwater. Sen. Kinnaird kicked off her reelection campaign a few weeks ago; there has been no announcement yet of Sen. Atwater’s intentions.

US House:
The redistricting of the 4th congressional district has gotten more media coverage than those of the NC House and Senate, mostly due to Rep. Brad Miller’s decision two weeks ago to not challenge Rep. David Price in the Democratic primary. Here’s how they ended up in the same district:

Currently, the 4th district is compact, covering all of Orange and Durham counties, northeastern Chatham County, and western Wake County. While the number of the district did not change in the shape of the district did, and now Orange county is split into two different districts. District 4 starts in Alamance County, covers most (but not all) of Orange County, then splits into to prongs. One prong goes through southern Durham and into Wake (which covers where Rep. Miller lives), while the other meanders through Chatham and Harnett counties, and ends up in Fayetteville. The total size of the district is about 60 miles across, and 90 miles north-to-south. This was done because the Republican-controlled redistricting commission wanted to isolate as many Democrats as possible into one district. Whoever wins the 4th (presumably Price) will have a challenging time representing such a diverse district.

The precincts not covered by district 4 (Efland, Eno, St. Mary’s, Cameron Park, Cedar Grove, Tolars, and Caldwell) will be represented by the 6th district, which is currently held by Republican Rep. Howard Coble. The 6th district is even larger geographically than the 4th, at about 135 miles across and 48 miles north-to-south.  It begins in Surry County, then moves across the northern counties (Stokes, Rockingham, Caswell, Person, and the northern part of Granville), while dipping down to get most of Guilford, Alamance, the Orange precincts I mentioned, and northern Durham County. Rep. Coble has announced that he will be running for a 15th term.

Given the changes in redistricting (plus having Amendment One and a surprising gubernatorial primary on the ballot), it looks like there will be some exciting races this year. It will be interesting to see if Sen. Kinnaird and Sen. Atwater go head-to-head, and who will step in to fill Rep. Faison’s shoes. Which races are you looking forward to?



Based on checking just now, none of the five current Durham County Commissioners or seven current Durham City Council members live in the boundaries of the new House 50.Even if any lived in it, I don't believe that this would be the legislative seat for which any of them would want to run. That's because no Senate incumbent lives in the boundaries of the new Senate 22 district . That district extends from southwestern Durham County up into Person and Caswell Counties. The municipal parts (west Durham and the Durham Co. part of Chapel Hill) are far more densely populated than the areas in the two northern counties. At least one current Durham council member lives in Senate 22 and may want to run. This CH councilmember in not interested in doing so. The new House 50, as was the case with the former House 29 and new House 30, contains parts of both Chapel Hill and Durham municipalities. And it also takes in the northwestern corner of Raleigh (in eastern Durham County). It's very much an "exurban Triangle" district, and appears to be drawn for a Republican to win. My sense is that neither the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People or Durham People's Alliance -- the two center-left PACs in Durham County -- intend for this to happen. State Senator Bob Atwater, who gave excellent representation to southwest Durham and the eastern edge of Chapel Hill for much of the past decade, lives in the new House 54 district, all of Chatham and some of Lee. He has a history of running strongly in those Chatham precincts, first as successful candidate for Commissioner and then as successful Senate candidate. Ed Harrison

Thank you, Erin (and Jason!) for this amazing explanation. It's very informative, and the maps are fantastic. It's also so disheartening to see how thoroughly the Republicans have decimated our already-a-bit-tangled districts. 

Thanks for the post and maps!

I haven't looked closely at the new districts before. And I was surprised to find that I am now just over the border (at the odd corner north of Hillsborough) in District 6. I've never been gerrymandered before.

 When and how will I find out if I am actually registered in the new district? Will the board of elections be sending out information about this before the election or will I find out on my ballot?


That's a good question. I don't know if the State Board of Elections is required to send out any information about the change, but I looked on their website, and it seems that they have updated their online database to reflect the new districts. You can search for yourself here to find out what district you are in:


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