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What impact will North Carolina have on the 2020 election?

Next August, the Republican National Convention will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina. NewsHour Weekend traveled there this week for a look ahead at how changing state demographics might impact the 2020 presidential election. Hari Sreenivasan spoke with Adam Hochberg, an instructor at the University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism and former NPR correspondent, to learn more.

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  • Hari Srenivasan:

    For a look at how demographics in North Carolina are changing and how that might impact the 2020 election, I spoke recently with Adam Hochberg. He's an instructor at the University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism and a contributor to public radio's American Homefront Project. We sat down at an empty lecture hall at USC Chapel Hill.

  • Adam Hochberg:

    North Carolina is growing. There are a couple cities in North Carolina that are growing hugely. One of them is the Raleigh Wake County area. The other is the Charlotte area. They're both among the top growing metro areas in the country and as people are moving in those areas are becoming first, younger, second, more educated because these are, in a lot of cases, highly educated tech jobs that people are coming here to fill.

    And as these areas sprawl magnificently it's becoming more suburban. So when you hear a lot of electoral pundits saying that the election is going to be determined by the suburban mom or the suburban family, we have a lot of those suburbs springing up you know seemingly every day in North Carolina.

  • Hari Srenivasan:

    There have also been a lot of stories in the past couple of years looking at North Carolina in an unfavorable light and when it comes to who has access to voting. How significant is it in North Carolina that everyone has equal access to go vote?

  • Adam Hochberg:

    After the 2010 census that was also the year when Republicans took over state legislature for first time in a long time and they implemented what is indisputably be called extreme gerrymandering. Now the Republicans will point out that the Democrats were in charge for a long time and they gerrymander too and they absolutely did. What was different about the 2010 redistricting, 2011 redistricting is first of all, the technology existed for micro targeting of population so you can look at district lines there is now the data on individual voters where you can almost know how every person in every house votes and…

  • Hari Srenivasan:

    You can carve a district around these houses.

  • Adam Hochberg:

    You can carve a district around those houses. There is an African-American college. The campus is split in half. That's a pretty obvious effort to split the black vote so that African-American voters don't have as much power in any particular congressional district.

    In this last election 2018 you had the majority of voters in North Carolina who voted in a congressional election casting their ballots for Democrats and yet Republicans won 10 of the 13 congressional districts.

    One of the leaders of that legislative redistricting effort was asked why did you design these maps so the Republicans won 10 of the 13 districts? He said because we couldn't think of a way for the Republicans to win 11 of the 13 districts.

  • Hari Srenivasan:

    So really the strategy seems to be as much as turn out your team to make sure whoever you think is on the other team doesn't show up?

  • Adam Hochberg:

    Sure. Early voting is another thing that's been contentious in North Carolina. There are a number of churches, mainly African-American churches, that do voter drives on Sunday after Sunday church service, they are called Souls to The Polls. So the legislature passed a law and said no early voting on Sunday. It had the effect of removing that vehicle to get people to the polls.

    Now, we have to say all these things put together, do they make a huge impact? Probably not. Do they affect some votes here and there? Yeah. And with some of the margins that we see in North Carolina maybe they could make a difference.

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