The Morrisville Town Council approved a new impartial voting map for local elections last week with a 5-2 vote.
According to a press release, the new voting map was in response to a growing population and the town council directed staff to redistrict the town free of political consideration.
Jane Pinsky, director of the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, said Morrisville’s redistricting is significant because it does not consider partisan factors.
“They did not look at voter turnout, voter registration, they didn’t look at past election results,” she said. “And most, most importantly, they didn’t look at where incumbents lived.”
She said this is important because some districts will now be tougher to maintain and some current incumbents will now live in the same districts.
In Morrisville, candidates running for the town council must live in the district they represent, the press release said.
Satish Garimella, a Morrisville town council member, said impartial districting opens new opportunities.
Pinsky said North Carolina has had issues with gerrymandering — the redrawing of districts to specifically favor one political party.
“If you look at anything that describes the worst, the most gerrymandered districts in the country, our (state's) twelfth district usually comes up on the top of that list,” she said.
A federal panel ruled in August that North Carolina’s 2011 State House and Senate redistricting map was unconstitutional and violated the Equal Protection Clause.
Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said the state's gerrymandering affects elections when candidates for the state legislature are on the ballot without competition.
“In other words, more than 40 percent of our General Assembly is already elected,” he said. “And that’s not healthy for democracy.”
Pinsky said 72 people were essentially elected after the May primary because they were either unopposed in the upcoming general election or unopposed in both the primary and general election.
“So it’s really hard to think that your vote counts if, frankly, your vote doesn’t count because you don’t have a choice,” Pinsky said.
Phillips said North Carolina’s system is broken and unfair and said it was important for the public to understand that.
“Because when you have districts that are drawn in such a way where only one party will always win, the people who are in the other party essentially have meaningless votes," he said.
Garimella said the town council is setting an example for others to follow.
"Other towns are — hopefully can take this example and go with it," he said.
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