GOP legislative leaders should let voters have their say on proposal to end gerrymandering

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Gerrymandering. For decades, this maddening phenomenon in which politicians rig elections by drawing legislative maps and, in effect, choosing their own voters, has had a ruinous impact on North Carolina politics and policymaking.

Now, however, thanks to the inspired work of reform advocates, all that can and should change.

House Bill 437 – the “Fair Maps Act” – would amend the state constitution to take redistricting power out of the hands of partisan legislators and establish an independent commission comprised of everyday North Carolinians to draw the state’s voting districts free from political influence.

This is from a statement issued by the good people at Common Cause of NC earlier this week:

Primary sponsors of the Fair Maps Act include Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), Rep. Robert Reives (D-Chatham, Durham), Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake) and Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham). (Click here to watch video clips of the bill sponsors discussing their support for the Fair Maps Act and ending gerrymandering in North Carolina.)

“We applaud these lawmakers for introducing the Fair Maps Act. This legislation provides lasting, nonpartisan reform that would end gerrymandering for good in North Carolina. The Fair Maps Acts would stop the practice of politicians manipulating our voting districts and it would ensure voters have a true voice in choosing their representatives,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. “While the citizens commission proposed by the Fair Maps Act would not be in place for the 2021 round of redistricting, the bill puts forward key principles that legislators should look to as new districts are drawn this year. Among those principles are the importance of meaningful public participation, rejecting partisan or racial gerrymandering and protecting communities from being needlessly divided.”

Phillips noted that the most prominent Republican leaders currently in the legislature, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and Speaker Tim Moore, both sponsored bills to create a citizens redistricting commission when their party was in the minority a little more than a decade ago.

“It was right for Speaker Moore and President Pro Tem Berger to support nonpartisan redistricting when their party was out of power, and it would still be the right thing to do now that their party controls the General Assembly,” Phillips said. “We urge members of both parties to end the damaging cycle of gerrymandering and put the well-being of North Carolinians above partisan politics by passing the Fair Maps Act.”

The bottom line: This is a model that’s worked well in other states and swift passage ought to be a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, as has been the case for years, Republican leadership in the General Assembly remains a huge roadblock.

All caring and thinking North Carolinians should demand that GOP leaders end their stubborn resistance to reform and let voters have their say.

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