How We Determined Which Districts Were "Flippable"
What we mean when we say "flippable"
We define the most “flippable” districts as those in which the race itself was close in 2016 (or 2012/2014) and/or where Democrats fared well in that district in one or more statewide races (President, Governor, or Senate). More detail on our calculations is provided below.
One important factor that is not reflected in these calculations is who the candidates in these districts will be.
Our goal is not to discourage anyone from working to support their local candidates no matter where their district falls on our "flippability" scale. We believe that it is important to broaden the Democratic coalition as widely as possible and that Democratic candidates should run vigorously everywhere. Even in deeply red areas, it's important to engage people and talk about progressive values, and turning out voters for Democrats everywhere helps win statewide races.
But if we're going to have a shot at breaking the veto-proof supermajority (and, hopefully, creating truly competitive districts across the state following the next census), we need to take our best shot at the opportunities we have to get Democrats into office, and that means putting our time and resources to their best strategic use. Our goal is simply to be a resource for those looking to maximize their strategic impact.
"Flippability" isn't everything; it's one piece of the puzzle (albeit an important one!) in taking a smart approach to reaching our goals and getting more progressives elected.
How we determined which Districts Are "flippable"
We used precinct-level data to calculate 2016 election results for each major statewide race—President, Governor, and US Senate—in each NC House district.
We define the most “flippable” districts as those where either the NC House election itself was close in 2016 (or 2014) and/or where these statewide races were close or even leaned the other way.
We identified potentially flippable NC Senate and US House districts using the same approach we used to identify NC House districts.
Based on this analysis, we identified eight NC Senate districts and two US House districts as "flippable."
Flippable NC Senate districts are in five areas: Mecklenburg County (39 and 41), Guilford County (27), Wake and Franklin Counties (15, 17 and 18), and New Hanover County (9).
Potentially flippable US House districts are 2 (which includes parts of Wake County) and 13 (which includes part of Guilford County).
How We Identified High-Value Precincts
After identifying the districts most likely to flip at the NC House, NC Senate, and US House levels, we created a precinct-level map to show which precincts fall into flippable districts for one, two, or all three of these seats.
Each precinct received a 0 - 3 score indicating the number of flippable districts—NC House, NC Senate, and US House—the precinct falls into.
0 = white (no flippable races)
1 = light purple (1 flippable race)
2 = medium purple (2 flippable races)
3 = dark purple (3 flippable races)
There are several pending redistricting cases that could affect congressional and legislative districts in North Carolina. A federal court has ruled that nine NC Senate seats and 19 NC House seats are unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered and must be redrawn (meaning, at a minimum, adjacent districts would also need to be redrawn), but the Supreme Court put a hold on this ruling pending consideration of an appeal. It remains to be seen whether districts will be redrawn prior to 2018 elections.
One benefit to using precinct-level analysis and the outcomes of multiple races to determine "flippability" is that we can easily rerun our analysis and update our maps when and if new districts are drawn.
Meanwhile, it's worth focusing on the target districts identified in the current maps for several reasons. First, one possibility is that the maps will not change at all prior to 2018 elections. Second, many target areas will remain good targets within a number of redistricting scenarios. For example, Apex in Wake County is a fast-growing area that is a valuable target even if district lines shift. NC House District 8 in Pitt and Wilson Counties wraps around one of the racially gerrymandered districts (NC H24) and could pick up some of that bluer area, making it an even better target to flip. And none of the racially gerrymandered districts are in the Western part of the state, so the three flippable NC House districts in Western North Carolina will very likely remain unchanged even if new maps are drawn.