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Democracy NC: Redistricting reform gaining momentum in Southeastern states

(Photo by Melissa Boughton)

Redistricting reform is building across the Southeast, a region known for gerrymandering and voter suppression laws, according to a new report from Democracy North Carolina.

The voting rights organization’s researchers looked at proposed redistricting legislation in nine Southeastern states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

In the first half of 2017, lawmakers in seven out of nine Southeastern states filed redistricting reform bills, totaling approximately 25 proposals.

Democracy NC’s report attributes the high number of redistricting reform bills to the strong desire among dozens of lawmakers — and the millions of voters they represent — to “rehabilitate Southeastern politics and democracy” by taking aim at what has for decades been a “closed-door process focused on maintaining political power.”

“Too often, elected officials prioritize their own reelection and partisan political power over the concerns of the people they represent,” said Isela Gutierrez, associate research director at Democracy NC. “Thankfully, Southeastern legislators from both major parties stepped up for redistricting reform in 2017.”

The report lists each redistricting reform bill filed this year with a summary and bill sponsors. There are four such measures listed in North Carolina: House Bill 200, HB 674, HB 714 and HB 735. None have made it past committee referrals.

“North Carolina’s history of gerrymandering and lawmakers’ current impasse on how to reform the redistricting process reflect the tensions at play region-wide,” said Sunila Chilukuri, Democracy NC’s lead researcher on the report. “Similarly, the interest in reform in our state parallels renewed activism on the issue across the Southeast. The Southeast — a region long criticized for our political history — has a chance to lead the way on this important issue.”

The report highlights trends in redistricting reform legislation in the Southeast, including proposals that would empower citizen-led redistricting commissions, end prison gerrymandering and restrict partisan favoritism in redistricting.

You can read the full document here.

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