Effort to take politics out of drawing voting maps should gain traction this year, backers say

Discussion in 'Politics' started by gwb-trading, Feb 13, 2019.

  1. News from N.C.

    Effort to take politics out of drawing voting maps should gain traction this year, backers say

    Bills to end gerrymandering in North Carolina have been filed just about every session for decades but have rarely even gotten a hearing. This year, backers say, things could be different.

    North Carolina's voting maps are often held up as an example of extreme partisan redistricting, designed to elect as many Republicans or Democrats as possible. Rep.

    Chuck McGrady , R-Henderson, said gerrymandered districts have created "a volatile and polarized policy environment" and eroded accountability.

    "Constituents should be the ones that pick their lawmakers, not the other way around," McGrady said at a Wednesday news conference on the filing of House Bill 69.

    The measure, sponsored by McGrady, Rep. Robert Reives, D-Chatham, Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Guilford, and Rep. Brian Turner, D-Buncombe, would take the task of drawing congressional and legislative voting districts out of the hands of the General Assembly and turn it over to an independent 11-person commission.

    Although such commissions have been proposed before, McGrady and Reives said two factors are making lawmakers think long and hard about following through on the idea now:
    • Neither party is sure who will control the legislature after the 2020 election and would therefore be in charge of drawing the next set of maps.
    • Lawsuits challenging maps lawmakers have drawn in recent years continue to roll through state and federal courts. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in March on whether the congressional map drawn in 2016 was too partisan.
    Lawmakers don't want the courts drawing maps for them, Reives said, so now is the time to change the system.

    "What you don't want people doing is sitting around looking, 'How do we get the most Democrats in one group? How do we get the most Republicans in one group?'" he said. "When you think about it, if you take those factors out by themselves, you're already down the road to getting real districts."

    House Bill 69 is modeled after a system that has been used successfully in Iowa for years.

    The redistricting commission would include four Democrats, four Republicans and three people not affiliated with either party. All members would be randomly selected by the State Auditor's Office from a list of 52 nominees compiled by House and Senate Republicans and Democrats.

    Nominees cannot have held office, been appointed to a state board, worked on a campaign, worked for a political party or served as a lobbyist within the past five years. Anyone who works for the General Assembly or has financial ties to the governor also would be ineligible to serve on the redistricting commission.

    In drawing the maps, the commission would focus on balancing population across districts, splitting as few counties and precincts as possible and making districts geographically. The panel couldn't try to protect incumbents, consider how people voted in past elections or racially gerrymander any districts, according to the bill.