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The case for nonpartisan redistricting plans

Editorial writers at the Winston-Salem Journal make a strong case for an independent redistricting commission in this morning’s paper.

‘Only one in every 6.25 North Carolinians who go to the polls this year will do so happy with the performance of the General Assembly. But come next January, when the 2013 session opens, we can expect the legislature’s partisan balance to remain unchanged, its leadership intact and most of the incumbents running for reelection right back in their comfortable chairs.

How is it that a legislative body can enjoy only a 16-percent approval rating — that rating comes from Public Policy Polling Inc. — and still feel fairly secure regarding its re-election prospects?

The answer: The politicians chose their voters, not the other way around.

In North Carolina and other states the redistricting process is rigged to protect the incumbents in power. With the help of high-powered computing, the two major parties provide the legislatures they control with detailed maps of where to draw district lines, right down to splitting precincts.

The party in power — Democrats for more than a century in North Carolina but Republicans in 2011 — stacks the maps in their favor. They provide themselves with as many safe districts as possible and tightly pack opposing-party voters into districts with overwhelming majorities. This way, they maximize the number of seats they should win while minimizing their chances of losing partisan control.

The best solution to this anti-democratic process, one championed by Republican legislators for years but not instituted when they took control of the North Carolina legislature in 2011, is a truly independent redistricting commission charged with following strict guidelines on how districts must be drawn.

A decade ago, the Republican-controlled N.C. Supreme Court provided lawmakers with just such guidelines. Some time next year, that court will decide if this year’s maps abide by those directions. An independent commission would be required to follow those mandates and it could be legally denied the sophisticated data that partisans use to rig districts in their favor.

Until such a commission is created, North Carolina voters will continue to vote in non-competitive elections rigged by the people they are supposed to be choosing.’

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