Commentary

Editorial: Legislature is unfit for redistricting task

The joint editorial boards of the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh’s News & Observer hit the nail on the head this morning with an editorial summing up the redistricting process that’s been proceeding at the General Assembly the last several days. Their conclusion: the judges who ordered the process should take back control of it because it’s impossible for lawmakers to handle the duty in a proper fashion.

Here’s the conclusion: “NC’s new voting maps have already failed”:

While these maps are certainly an improvement over the gerrymandered maps they might replace, the new maps still face questions about the intentional protection of incumbents, and they appear to rely too much on the unconstitutional maps in place.

Mostly, though, the past two weeks have affirmed a larger truth — that even with looming warnings from the court about partisanship, it’s near impossible to keep politics from bleeding into maps. Lawmakers, regardless of party, will often operate in their self-interest, and voters will support them. It’s what Democrats and Republicans have done for decades. It’s what happened once again this month.

It’s why Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Democrat from Charlotte, said that although he was generally satisfied with the maps his chamber produced, he’ll vote against them. “These are the fairest maps, and this was the fairest process, in North Carolina in my lifetime,” Jackson said. But, he said: “Independent redistricting would look just like the process we just went through, except it wouldn’t be politicians doing it.”

We agree, and we believe the court should wrest the maps from the hands of lawmakers and either give the task to a special master or, if there’s time before 2020, allow lawmakers to pursue an independent commission that would produce N.C. districts not colored by partisanship and self-interest. Lawmakers have had their chance, for decades and again this month. They’ve failed.

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