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Gerrymandering: Wrong in the past, wrong now

Today’s must-read op-ed comes from Charles Meeker and Richard Vinroot. The former Democratic Raleigh mayor and former Republican Charlotte mayor believe the best way to end polarizing politics is to find a new way to draw our legislative and congressional districts, removing partisan politics from the process. Meeker and Vinroot write in Raleigh’s News & Observer:

‘Different ideas, different policies, different agendas are not such a bad thing.

Charles Meeker (left) and Richard Vinroot (right)

Charles Meeker (left) and Richard Vinroot (right)

That’s to be expected in our state’s robust two-party system. When those differences can be resolved through thoughtful debate and a willingness to find common ground, our democracy works the way the Founding Fathers wanted it to.

Yet these days in both Raleigh and Washington, it is becoming increasingly difficult for both sides to work with each other, much less find common ground.

A big reason has to do with gerrymandering. When legislative and congressional districts are drawn to protect a political party and eliminate competition, lawmakers are less likely to work together and reach consensus. Compromise becomes a bad word. Civil discussions go out the window. The result is legislative gridlock in a toxic polarizing environment.

But we believe it doesn’t have to be that way.

The public yearns for legislative bodies to work with each other in a spirit of civility and respect. We believe most of our hard-working elected officials would in fact prefer such an environment as well.

So how do we get there? Ending gerrymandering is an important first step.

North Carolina needs to find a new way to draw our legislative and congressional districts that takes petty partisan politics out of the process.

Of course, both sides have done it over the years – to the victor goes the spoils. And if your side has the power of the pen, why not draw districts to benefit your party?

The reality is that most legislative and congressional races in North Carolina are overwhelmingly noncompetitive thanks to gerrymandering. Lawmakers arrive in Raleigh and Washington with little incentive to work with their counterparts on the other side. Without competition, the public has no reason to pay attention to political campaigns, the media have no reason to cover the issues and candidates have no reason to campaign or to fear being held accountable.

And that’s not healthy for democracy.

As former elected officials from different political parties, we recognize that ending gerrymandering is a much-needed reform to improve our democracy. That’s why we are leading a new coalition called North Carolinians to End Gerrymandering Now. We want to encourage the General Assembly to pass a redistricting reform bill next year that can be put on the ballot for public approval in 2016.

We applaud Wake County Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, the Republican House speaker pro tem, and Cumberland County’s Rep. Rick Glazier, a Democrat, for their co-sponsorship of redistricting reform. House Bill 606 had 61 overall co-sponsors last year, so clearly there is bipartisan buy-in to end gerrymandering from leaders in each party. We the people just need to encourage the legislature as a whole to act next year.

For both political parties, ending gerrymandering is an insurance policy. Clearly in North Carolina, no political party will hold power forever. And when the next power-shift comes, the party out of power should not be marginalized to the sidelines without a voice. A nonpartisan redistricting process will provide fair, compact and more competitive districts.

Yes, some of us may be coming late to the party on ending gerrymandering. But gerrymandering was wrong in the past, and it’s wrong now.

We believe a 21st century process – free of politics – would produce districts that elect folks more willing to work with one another and would boost both civility and productivity in Raleigh and Washington.

And that’s what our democracy needs.’

Read the full op-ed here.

5 Comments

  1. LayintheSmakDown

    May 23, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Where was this post in the 140 years before 2011? Or maybe at least the years post 1995 when the internet was up an running. The good thing is the Republicans learned well while on the sidelines all those years, and nothing that is being done now is all that new when it comes to redistricting. Heck, if the democrat party ever gets control again I will be glad to join you in sounding the horn and beating the pots….but then all there would be is dust from you guys high tailing it outta here.

  2. Alan

    May 23, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Sure it was only the last 140 years? So, now you’re admitting the state is gerrymandered and the Republikans have every right to do whatever the heck they like and to hell with what the voters think. As soon as Fart Pope and team get kicked out of office, it may be another 140 years before the GOP ever gets back in, assuming it even survives.

  3. LayintheSmakDown

    May 26, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    They have obviously used the rules to attempt to keep themselves in the majority as best they can within the law. Call it what you like but they have followed the law. And I seem to remember the voters put them in place, so yes they are following the will of the people. Nice to see your usual straw man though Alan/ML, and your maturity that I have (not) missed oh these many months of often ignoring this site.

  4. Angelina McCurry

    May 26, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    I truly as a German American object to the use of the term gerrymandering. Do you realize it is a slur from the World War era against Germans, a population that will quietly sit and take it on the chin because of their culture? They have worked quietly to redeem themselves from a very bad period. Give them the credit they deserve by stopping the use of this word.

  5. Alan

    May 26, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    “Straw man”? That’s original. And yes, the voters did indeed put them there, mid-term election year. There’s a lot of buyers remorse among many Republicans I know. Let’s see how the GOP survive in 2016, if they haven’t managed to rig the entire election by then.

    You seem to post a LOT for someone who supposedly ignores this site.