If you've not been obsessing over gerrymandering, you're forgiven for being confused about where things stand with redistricting in NC. We can't fill you in on every detail in one post, but we'll do what we can to bring you up to date.
If you've just moved to NC, been busy with work, or come out of a years-long coma, read the History of NC Gerrymandering in Stronger NC's Redistricting Toolkit to learn what's happened to erode our democratic elections since the Republicans gained control of the NC General Assembly in 2011. In a nutshell,
In 2010, in time for the census, Republicans gained control of NC General Assembly (NCGA) after 112 years. The NCGA went on to create the most gerrymandered electoral districts in the country (both for themselves and for NC’s US Congress seats). The maps they drew rank among the worst in the world for unfair voting districts, according to the Election Integrity Project. Federal courts have held that all three voting maps drawn by the NCGA in 2011 were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The US Supreme Court agreed, and the current legislature has spent the past few years in court attempting to submit new map versions that pass muster.
Two pending federal cases have been combined (NC League of Women Voters & Common Cause v. Rucho and Common Cause v Lewis) and will be heard by the US Supreme Court later this month in what many think is the best challenge to partisan gerrymandering. Learn more about those cases: The Virginian-Pilot, Charlotte Observer, SCOTUS Blog. Wish we had a crystal ball!
We can't predict the future, but we do know that:
- 80% of NC voters across party lines think it's not fair for politicians to draw their own districts
- more than half say they're more likely to vote for a politician who supports impartial redistricting
- multiple court cases have been decided against NC's gerrymandered districts
- Democrats have broken the super-majority at the NCGA
- Republicans are afraid of an ongoing BLUE WAVE in 2020
- legislators are finally getting around to bi-partisan attempts to address this: HB 69, Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission and HB 140, The FAIR Act.
Common Cause summarizes HB 69:
- An eleven-person commission will be made up of voters nominated by legislative leaders.
- The commission will have four members from each of both major parties as well as three voters not affiliated with either major party. The four legislative leaders responsible for appointing the commissioners shall have the goal of representing the state’s racial, ethnic, geographic and gender diversity.
- The commission will hire staff to assist them, hold public hearings both before and after the drawing of the maps, and create the maps in a transparent public process.
- The commission is to seek public input, by holding public hearings and permitting the submission of proposed maps online and by mail.
- The commission is tasked with drawing districts that will be compact, contiguous, and abide by state and federal law. No use shall be made of political factors, including voter registration, previous election results, or incumbents’ addresses, except where needed to comply with state and federal law.
- Once the commission completes and approves a redistricting plan, the plan will be sent to the NC General Assembly, which will vote on the maps without altering them.
- The process will outline a schedule to provide the General Assembly with proposed maps as quickly as possible.
HB 140, which also has some bipartisan support (including that of Republican donor, Art Pope), would entail a constitutional amendment that would ban the use of political data, though the legislature would remain responsible for drawing the maps. This would not appear on the ballot until 2020, which means that nothing would change until after that election. The conservative Civitas Institute compares the two bills here.
So what can WE do to make fair districts a reality in NC, whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court decision?
- On March 26th, Common Cause will go before the US Supreme Court and argue that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. Stand with them at 10am for a press conference at the NCGA in Raleigh! Details here.
- You Can Vote is starting fair map canvassing in Alamance County on March 23, with rides available from the YCV office in Durham. Weekend dates are available now through the end of April, with more dates and locations to come. Details here.
- Contact your NC legislators to express support for HB 69, including racial/minority equity provisions.
- Talk to friends and neighbors about this crucial issue, and share these great resources and additional action ideas:
- Take the End Gerrymandering Pledge.
Voters overwhelmingly support fair districts - it's time to make this happen!