CORRECTION: An earlier version of the column contained incorrect information about the FAIR Act. The FAIR Act would not establish an independet commission. The story has been updated with the correct information. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this errror.
Late last month, North Carolina’s voter ID law was struck down by a Wake County Superior Court judge because it was ruled that the district maps used in 2016 were gerrymandered (drawn with partisan intent to secure certain seats) by the General Assembly. This made them “illegally constituted” and the laws illegitimate because without this gerrymandering, they would not have been able to push the constitutional amendments through to referendum. This ruling carries a lot of messy implications with it, but this column is focused specifically on one aspect of it: the issue of gerrymandering.
In January, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear the North Carolina gerrymandering case in March after the federal judges ruled twice that the state’s districts were obviously biased and had to be redrawn. The impact of the way these districts are drawn are evident in the way that state elections play out. Despite the fact that in North Carolina, Democrats won the popular vote in the 2018 election, the Republicans still have control of the majority of the seats in the General Assembly and both of the state’s seats in Congress. How, then, can the state legislature and national representatives of North Carolina be considered legitimate or an accurate reflection of the support of the state’s population?
These federal and state districts were drawn to ensure Republican control in a majority of the districts by a partisan commission, and were repeatedly redrawn over the last decade as courts have repeatedly found that these districts were specifically drawn to ensure Republican hegemony and minimize the influence of Black voters.
This problem is not unique to North Carolina, of course. Gerrymandering is a national issue, as can be seen in other egregious examples such as Pennsylvania and Texas. Not only that, it is a bipartisan issue, as Democratic gerrymandering in Maryland makes clear.
These cases of partisan gerrymandering are detrimental and poisonous to the ideal of the multi-party representative system of government that we claim to hold so dear. Luckily, there is a bill with bipartisan support being considered, that would establish an independent, non-partisan commission to draw the state’s district map. If we believe that the basis for our government is the voting public, then we should support the creation of an independent commission to guarantee districts that are designed based on compactness and minimizing divisions among counties, rather than allowing them to be determined arbitrarily by the party already in power.