Legislature, News

Bipartisan group of lawmakers introduce redistricting reform bill to end gerrymandering

Rep. Chuck McGrady

Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) leads a press conference Tuesday about redistricting reform. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

Lawmakers have taken the first step toward ending gerrymandering — introducing a bill that would take the politics out of redistricting.

It’s not an unprecedented bill and there’s no guarantee it will actually make it to committee, but lawmakers present at a press conference Tuesday showed a commitment to getting it passed.

“When we were in the minority, this bill was something that Republicans generally rallied around and what I’d say to that is, if it was the right thing then, it is still the right thing now,” said Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson). “We have to serve the people of North Carolina and we have to make sure they have full confidence in the integrity and fairness of our elections.”

House Bill 200 is almost identical to 2011’s HB824. Instead of lawmakers drawing their own districts for partisan advantage, a nonpartisan legislative staff would create congressional and legislative maps without political consideration.

McGrady is sponsoring the bill, along with Representatives Jonathan Jordan (R-Ashe, Watauga), Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) and Sarah Stevens (R-Surry, Wilkes). There are Democrats co-sponsoring the bill.

Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake) said the bill is not a cure for all the problems of redistricting, but rather, “a wonderful treatment to a bipartisan problem from which our democracy suffers.”

“Redistricting is one of the most inherently partisan activities that we do as a body. There will always be partisanship in it,” Martin said. “But this bill would put a layer of insulation between the partisan hacks, like all of us up here, and the drawing of our districts. Regardless of which party is in charge, I think that’s the best way forward.”

Common Cause North Carolina Executive Director Bob Phillips was at the press conference. He said the real push for the organization and legislators will be to get legislative leadership to allow the bill to be heard.

So far, legislative leaders haven’t been receptive to redistricting reform but they have supported it in the past, Phillips said.

Wednesday is an official redistricting reform lobbying day. There will be a rally at 1 p.m. at Bicentennial Plaza to end gerrymandering.

Keep an eye on NC Policy Watch Thursday afternoon for a more in depth story about redistricting reform and coverage of Wednesday’s rally.

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