If Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) and other GOP legislative leaders want Common Cause NC to drop its partisan gerrymandering lawsuit, they’re going to have to enact redistricting reform first.
“If Republican legislative leaders had enacted real redistricting reform — like they repeatedly called for and sponsored when Democrats were in power — litigation would never have been necessary,” said Executive Director Bob Phillips. “Instead, they have blocked reform and engaged in blatant partisan gerrymandering of our state’s voting districts.”
The organization sent a news release to media Monday morning responding to Lewis’ formal call last week for them to drop the lawsuit in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to stay out of federal partisan gerrymandering claims.
Lewis incorrectly told reporters at a press conference that the high court’s opinion set a precedent that courts could not weigh in on partisan gerrymandering — it’s up to lawmakers to regulate redistricting. The opinion, however, acknowledges states’ efforts in the battle against partisan gerrymandering and specifically mentions a Florida state Supreme Court opinion.
He called on Common Cause and other plaintiffs in the state lawsuit to drop it and engage in conversation with legislators about reform.
Common Cause NC has been lobbying for redistricting reform for more than a decade — neither party has passed any measures to take on the issue of partisan gerrymandering. There are currently six redistricting reform bills pending at the legislature, none of which have been scheduled for even a hearing this session.
Phillips said in the Monday news release that if Lewis is sincere about pursuing redistricting reform, he can start with the 2009 ‘Horton Independent Redistricting Commission’ bill, which he, along with now House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, sponsored at the time. That bill called for adoption of a state constitutional amendment creating an independent citizens commission to draw North Carolina’s legislative and congressional districts free from partisan politics, with full transparency and robust public input.
“So, we call upon Rep. Lewis and his fellow Republican legislative leaders to enact a true citizens redistricting commission now, and only after passing into law a gold-standard model of reform would we consider his request,” Phillips said.
Lewis responded on Twitter that he had not received any communication or the press release from Common Cause.
“The only commission bill filed in the House would let Democrats pick roughly 2/3 of the commission,” he added. “Not a good basis for a conversation and far from a ‘gold-standard.'”
I have received nothing, not even a press release. The only commission bill filed in the House would let Democrats pick roughly 2/3 of the commission. Not a good basis for a conversation and far from a "gold-standard". #ncga #ncpol https://t.co/CnzJtzJEO6
— David R Lewis (@RepDavidRLewis) July 8, 2019
The Common Cause v. Lewis trial is set to start July 15. A pre-trial hearing is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday.