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House members wade into nonpartisan redistricting reform as session winds down

In the waning days of the legislative session, members of the House Redistricting Committee met Thursday morning to consider a trio of bills intended to make the drawing of electoral lines less partisan in the future.

Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), a primary sponsor of H69 and H140, acknowledged constituents clearly have lost trust in the current map-making process.

“I heard from three different people yesterday – ‘I just want to get the legislature out of redistricting’ – Well that’s not gonna be possible unless you pass the constitutional amendment,” explained McGrady. “At this point and time, our constitution provides that our legislature has that role.”

Another challenge, according to McGrady is ensuring third party candidates will have a voice in developing a nonpartisan redistricting process.

“I know a lot of my colleagues do not believe there is any such thing as an unaffiliated voter these days, and so trying to figure out how you set up a commission or a process that engages unaffiliated voters or minor parties is tough.”

Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) used the opportunity to urge the committee to also look at House Bill 827, which would establish a North Carolina Citizens Redistricting Commission.

That Commission would ensure greater input by requiring lawmakers to hold at least 10 public hearings across the state before a preliminary plan could be released. Under HB 827, the new commission would also be subject to the state’s Public Records Act.

“Our purpose here is to build trust,” said Rep. Joe Sam Queen (D-Haywood), who urged his colleagues to be open to looking at other bills and best-practices.

Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), chair of the House Redistricting Committee said while it was premature to suggest they would be ready to vote on a final bill by the end of November, he would take all their concerns under advisement.

“We’re trying to find a system that works a little bit better than it has in the past,” he said.

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