Commentary

Why have Tim Moore and Phil Berger turned their backs on this cause?

Common Cause NC executive director Bob Phillips addresses the media prior to today’s petition delivery at the General Assembly

There are a lot of  substantive areas in which the leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly have set new standards for hypocrisy and double talk in recent years. Nowhere, however, is this kind of behavior more blatant or maddening than it is in the field of political gerrymandering.

For years, both House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger sponsored legislation to end partisan gerrymandering and replace it with a nonpartisan redistricting system. Moore even helped pass such a bill out of the House a few years back after Republicans took control of the General Assembly.

In 2017, however, neither man can be bothered to lift a finger to even secure a committee hearing for the idea. At the same time that both leaders are helping to advance a seemingly endless list of destructive, unpopular and unconstitutional bills, good, popular and constitutional redistricting reform bills like House Bill 200 and Senate Bill 209 languish unheard and unseen.

Today, good government advocates did their best to call Moore and Berger out on their hypocrisy. Staff members and volunteers from Common Cause NC held a brief public event outside the Legislative Building and then delivered boxes containing petitions with thousands of signatures to Moore’s office. Like the idea of nonpartisan redistricting itself, the petition text was simple and straightforward:

I, ________________, am a resident of North Carolina and a citizen concerned about the negative effect of partisan gerrymandering on our state. Gerrymandering robs too many North Carolinians of their vote on Election Day and I encourage the North Carolina General Assembly to enact a nonpartisan redistricting process, such as House Bill 200, for the state and end gerrymandering now.

Not surprisingly, Moore’s assistant informed the Common Cause folks that, due to this week’s “crossover” deadline, the Speaker would be too busy to meet with them today. Of course, the bitter irony there is that the same crossover deadline will soon sound the death knell for redistricting reform legislation for another year. In other words, Moore is too busy killing a proposal that he once championed to even meet with his former allies on the issue.

To their great credit, the Common Cause advocates stand ready to forgive and forget the treachery. Indeed, Common Cause executive director Bob Phillips wrapped up his remarks today with a plea to both men to “come back home to the cause of redistricting reform.” If only Berger and Moore had half the grace and class evident in that statement, our state would be in a hell of a lot better place.

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