Redistricting reform in NC

It’s a lot easier to do the right thing when the right thing is almost a decade away, but still, kudos to the Republicans in the NC House (we’ll have to wait on the Senate) for supporting non-partisan redistricting reform after the next census.  You can read my thoughts in the quotes in the article:

RALEIGH — A bipartisan effort is underway in the legislature to change the way North Carolina draws its congressional and legislative lines, creating districts based more on geography and compactness rather than on parties, politics and personalities.

A bill introduced this week creates a nonpartisan redistricting system in time for the 2020 U.S. census. The measure has the backing of Republicans such as Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam of Apex and Democrats such as Rep. Deborah Ross of Raleigh.

“We think we have good bipartisan group, and we are trying to get as many people to sign as possible,” Ross said in an interview. “The redistricting process, while always partisan, has gotten even more partisan, and we need to have a process that the public has confidence in.”

A similar bill passed the House two years ago 88-27 with House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, taking the unusual step of voting for it. But the measure died in the Senate.

It comes at a time when redistricting has become increasingly sophisticated, as mapmakers use computer models to slice not only counties, but neighborhoods and precincts to gain political advantage. North Carolina’s current redistricting plan is undergoing a court challenge.

“Everybody does it,” said Steven Greene, a political science professor at N.C. State University. “The Democrats did it when they were in power. The Republicans have now that they are in power. The Republicans have done it much better than the Democrats were ever able to. Part of it is modern technology and the way they can figure it out down to the house.”

Last November’s congressional elections were an indication of the power of redistricting. Although a slight majority of North Carolina voters cast their ballots for Democratic House candidates in November, the delegation sent to Washington had a 9-4 Republican majority.

Republicans had long championed a nonpartisan redistricting panel when they were in the minority, but their passion for reform cooled when they became the majority. The opposite is true for the Democrats, who have a newfound interest in reform.

What makes this legislation politically possible, Greene said, is that it will not take place until the next decade when most of today’s legislators are likely to be retired, and no one can be sure which political party will be in control in 2021 when redistricting next occurs.

“It is almost the perfect scenario for something like this,” Greene said.

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