Editorial: Virginia leaves NC behind once again

Elected leaders in Virginia have been pursuing a more progressive and productive path on a number of important issues of late than the lawmakers south of the border. The state has leapt ahead in its embrace of solar energy, is slated to become the first southern state to enact its own voting rights act, and will legalize marijuana in the near future.

What’s more, as today’s lead Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com points out, the Old Dominion is also outpacing North Carolina in another popular and vitally important area: putting an end to partisan gerrymandering through redistricting reform.

This is from the editorial:

Just a few months ago voters in neighboring Virginia overwhelmingly (67% of the state’s 4.2 million ballots) amended their state Constitution to put congressional and legislative district map-drawing into the hands of a bipartisan commission. This year a 16-member commission of citizens and legislators — equally divided between Democrats and Republicans – will redraw Virginia’s districts when the 2020 Census count is finalized.

While not perfect, it is a vast improvement over the way it was being handled by that state’ legislature.

North Carolina’s political leaders seem to be obsessed with trying to game the electoral system. Whether it is tussling over: The types of photo identification to be required at polling places; Numbers of days and specific hours polling places are open; The location of polling places; Mail-in absentee voting procedures or; The authority of local and state election officials: — no details that possibly might give one political party an advantage, is overlooked for manipulation for even the most minute partisan advantage.

Legislators need to embark now on developing and adopting a non-partisan system for drawing congressional and legislative districts. The timing couldn’t be better.

After noting that the delay in the arrival of new census data provides a perfect opportunity for North Carolina lawmakers to get moving, the editorial puts it this way:

Establishing a nonpartisan commission of citizens, with open and objective criteria to develop representative congressional and legislative districts won’t help incumbents, Democrats or Republicans keep or gain power.

But it will make sure ALL those who are supposed to have the REAL power and the STRONGEST voice in a democracy – the voters – aren’t weakened or muffled.

Or, as veteran good government advocate Bob Phillips of Common Cause North Carolina put it in an op-ed featured by NC Policy Watch yesterday:

The courts have made clear that gerrymandering is unconstitutional in North Carolina, and the public overwhelmingly wants nonpartisan redistricting.

…Moving forward, we need to enact lasting reform that ultimately takes redistricting power out of the hands of politicians, entrusting it with a nonpartisan citizens commission to draw our voting maps without racial or partisan gerrymandering. There are a variety of nonpartisan redistricting models working in other states. Let’s learn from them and create a system that best serves North Carolina.

At long last, let’s banish the specter of gerrymandering. It’s time to establish fair redistricting that finally puts people above politics.

Click here to read the entire WRAL editorial.

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