“Citizens need to realize that no matter what issue they care about, it’s affected by how we do redistricting,” said Jane Pinsky, director of the coalition.
In February, a North Carolina district court ruled some N.C. congressional districts to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered, forcing the Republican-controlled N.C. House of Representatives to redraw them. But many still believe the districts are gerrymandered on partisan lines.
Mark Nance, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, said the fact that 10 of the 13 representatives from North Carolina in the U.S. House are Republican is unrepresentative of North Carolina voters, who are more evenly divided between the two parties.
He said in a divided state like North Carolina, legislators ensure their reelection by drawing legislative districts so the margins between parties are very close, maximizing their supporters’ voting power and minimizing that of their opponent’s supporters. But this strategy causes districts to become unstable.
“The unintended result of that is that districts that are held by the majority, which are drawn to be safe, ultimately, are in fact the ones that are the most susceptible to even small changes in the demographics, small changes in the population,” Nance said.
North Carolina has grown rapidly in the last five years with the fourth largest number of migrants nationally between 2010 and 2015. And by 2014, it became the ninth most populous state, said Rebecca Tippett, director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Population Center.
But the growth is not evenly distributed, she said. Seven counties, including Wake, Chatham and Durham, ranked in the 100 fastest growing counties in the nation between 2010 and 2015. Meanwhile, the population in 48 of North Carolina’s 100 counties has decreased since 2010, said Tippett.
“A state full of districts that are drawn to be to the narrow district advantage of the majority party means that what seem like small shifts on a local level can really have a quite dramatic impact,” Nance said.
He said these demographic shifts combined with narrowly gerrymandered districts put Republicans in office at risk, and districts they once considered safe could suddenly become more competitive.
“The best insurance against this uncertainty is a redistricting process that is more transparent, that is more stable and that is a little more nonpartisan,” Nance said.
Pinsky said she hopes the N.C. General Assembly will pass House Bill 92, which would clearly define a nonpartisan system for drawing districts.
“The two parties need to ask themselves: can they bet their parties futures on the outcome of the 2020 election?”