If you’re fed up with the current version of the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly, there’s a glimmer of hope on the very distant horizon.
A revived bipartisan effort to reform how the state draws its political districts for Congress and the state legislature is gaining momentum in the N.C. House of Representatives. It’s one of the few positive developments of the 2013 legislative session.
The N.C. General Assembly draws new congressional and state legislative districts each decade after the census.
The GOP’s deliberate gerrymandering in 2011 packed Democratic-leaning voters into a distinct minority of districts to create a solidly right-wing state legislature that doesn’t reflect our moderate political climate. Democrats have been guilty of this too, and have used redistricting just as aggressively in previous cycles.
House Bill 606 would make redistricting a nonpartisan process in North Carolina by establishing an advisory commission of independent professionals to submit maps with compact and contiguous political districts for legislative approval during the next redistricting cycle.
The bill is sponsored by two Democrats and two Republicans — including Speaker Pro Tempore Paul Stam — and 57 co-sponsors from both parties. The House passed a similar bill by an overwhelming 88-27 vote in 2011, but it died in the Senate.
Fixing the redistricting process could help remove the “crazy” from North Carolina politics by eliminating the GOP’s comfortable electoral cushion. You might see fewer bills proposing preposterous ideas like making Christianity the official state religion or allowing lawmakers to receive gifts from lobbyists.
There’s some shrewd political calculation: Democrats desperately need maps that level the playing field. Republicans recognize the state’s long-term demographic trends favor Democrats, and they are worried about having the tables turned against them during the next redistricting cycle in 2021.
North Carolina’s current political maps distort the political process and devalue voter participation. There’s a pervasive sense that votes don’t matter and the game is rigged against us.