Scrolling through #ncpol on Twitter this morning, I came across a tweet about Buncombe County Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara announcing her candidacy for Congress in the 11th District against incumbent Madison Cawthorn.

Inevitably, someone posted what I see almost every time a discussion of the 11th District comes up:

Here is the current 11th Congressional District:

Is it gerrymandered? It looks as compact as you could reasonably expect from western North Carolina, although it is possible for a seemingly compact district to be gerrymandered.

To get a better idea of the voting tendency of the 11th District, I entered it into one of my favorite district mapmaking sites: Dave’s Redistricting. Based on election results from major statewide races from 2012 to 2016 (the latest data they have), the 11th District favors Republicans by 12 percentage points (R+12). Republican Madison Cawthorn performed in line with that expectation, winning the 2020 11th District race by twelve percent over Democrat Mo Davis.

So, can you make the District more Democrat-friendly? The most obvious way to do that would be to add Democratic-leaning Watauga County while removing some of the more Republican-leaning areas from the district. Here is the result:

Those changes did move the expected outcome in the Democrats’ direction, but only from R+12 to R+10. Getting those two percentage points came at the price of sacrificing some compactness in the 11th District. Of course, making such a change would also make the neighboring 5th Congressional District that much redder.

So, whatever the reasons are for Cawthorn’s relatively easy victory over Mo Davis in 2020, gerrymandering is not one of them.