League of Women Voters and Chapel Hill community members discussed gerrymandering in N.C.

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Walter Salinger, a retired professor of psychology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, currently serves on the Boards of Directors of both the League of Women Voters of Piedmont Triad and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina. On the evening of February 2nd, he gave a talk at the Chapel Hill Public Library to explain the consequences of gerrymandering voting districts and advocate for a nonpartisan redistricting plan.

Earlier this year, a U.S. District Court ruled that North Carolina's districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered in regards to race.

The League of Women Voters of Orange, Durham and Chatham counties and the community of Chapel Hill gathered to discuss North Carolina's gerrymandered redistricting Thursday night at the Chapel Hill Public Library.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that promotes citizen involvement in politics and advocates for improving principles of democracy. Pat McDaniels, a board member for the League of Women Voters of Orange, Durham and Chatham counties, introduced the event. She said the league's redistricting efforts gained momentum in 2005 and they already have plans for the 2020 census. 

“We are very interested in North Carolina and trying to get some kind of nonpartisan redistricting," McDaniels said. "It’s not only one party that tries to establish voting districts in its favor.”

Walter Salinger, a retired psychology professor from UNC-Greensboro, gave a presentation at the meeting on using demographic data to to end gerrymandering. 

“The thrust of the demographic shifts we’re going through is going to transform gerrymandering,” he said.

Salinger said 30 percent of North Carolina residents in 2016 effectively had no vote because of the gerrymandering, and 92 percent of the members of the North Carolina General Assembly were elected with majorities greater than 10 percent.

The organization believes that everyone should have a fair representation in their voting district, with each person’s vote being equally important. 

During the meeting, Salinger proposed a solution to ending gerrymandering. 

“The thought is that we can use the political uncertainty to persuade both political parties that it would be wiser to abandon the gerrymandering habit, at the latest, before 2020 elections,” he said.

David Jordan, a member of the league, said he joined because he believes in fairness in our political system.

“You need equity, fairness, and you know some people don’t get a vote that matters because there are the schemers that put them out of the loop," he said. "That’s what gerrymandering is intending to do, take the vote away.”

Salinger said in Orange, Durham and Chatham counties, the non-Hispanic population is declining while the Hispanic population is increasing. More generally, immigration in North Carolina encompasses more racial and ethnic minorities.

 “One of the earliest states to develop nonpartisan reform is Iowa," he said. "They have been doing this since 2010. They haven’t had any lawsuits and it's transformed politics in that state. We can do that too.”

Salinger said community members can help stop gerrymandering by sharing demographic data with the community and passing this information to those who influence North Carolina senators and local party leaders.

“It’s not obvious that we are a democracy anymore,” Salinger said. 

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