Another day, another pair of strong editorials blasting North Carolina’s outrageously gerrymandered legislative maps and demanding a permanent, nonpartisan fix.
After noting that a recent court order demanding new state legislative districts in 2017 will probably provide a little improvement, but not much, the Charlotte Observer puts is this way:
“There’s a better way. This past session, 63 N.C. House members – both Republicans and Democrats – co-sponsored House Bill 92, which would have established a nonpartisan Redistricting Commission whose members would be chosen by both parties. Those 63 House members made up a majority, but the bill never made it to a vote.
Similar redistricting reform efforts have been supported in the past by Republicans, including N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro-tem Phil Berger. But whenever a party takes control, the prospect of reform suddenly becomes less appealing to its members.
Tuesday’s federal court ruling won’t change that, even if it does provide an incremental improvement in racial gerrymandering. Our best hope: That someday, enough lawmakers will see the greater good of redistricting reform instead of their own small self-interest.”
“Those impacts [of gerrymandering] are clear. One is that voters are denied the opportunity to choose representatives in truly competitive contests.
Another is the fixed outcomes. Here, the gerrymandering is intended to saddle a Democratic county with mostly Republican representation in Raleigh. Democratic candidates received an average of about 60 percent of the vote in Guilford County, yet Republicans won five of nine legislative seats. It’s simply a matter of arranging districts so that votes are apportioned to elect more Republicans than Democrats. It’s clever, effective and undemocratic.
This pattern was repeated in the state’s other urban counties.
The legislature must take seriously the court’s order and draw fair, balanced districts that allow minority voters a reasonable chance to elect candidates of their choice, without packing overwhelming numbers of them into a few districts.
Ideally, elections next November will see full slates of candidates vying in competitive contests — and no more 100 percent victory margins.
Unfortunately, experience suggests that partisan lawmakers still will try to stack the deck to the greatest extent they can manage. Ultimately, redistricting should be undertaken by a nonpartisan commission given the responsibility of drawing balanced districts that serve the best interests of voters, not of the politicians. There has been bipartisan interest in the state House to do this; opposition has come from the state Senate.
Senators should soften their stance and, for once, do something that advances democracy rather than denies it.”