Your Turn to Make a Big Difference in North Carolina

28 Aug

Election Day is just slightly more than 60 days away.

Please read the press release below.

Share it with your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.

Ask the people asking for your vote how they feel about creating fair, impartial redistricting in North Carolina

Former Legislators Challenge Candidates to
Support Redistricting Reform

Two former members of the North Carolina House of Representatives, Rep William Current (R-Gaston) and Rep Ray Rapp ( D-Madison), urged candidates for the North Carolina House and Senate to support ending gerrymandering in North Carolina as part of their campaigns. Both men were primary sponsors of H 824, Nonpartisan Redistricting Process, which passed the North Carolina House by a bi-partisan vote of 88 to 27 in 2011, and takes the partisan politics out of the redistricting process. The two legislators asked for the candidates support in an email with a one question survey –

Our proposal (HB 824) called for taking the politics completely

out of the process, with maps drawn by nonpartisan

professionals rather than lawmakers, guided by clear and

specific rules

Our bill will be re-introduced in the 2015 legislative session

with primary sponsors including Cumberland County Democrat

Rep. Rick Glazier and Wake County Republican House Speaker Pro-

Tem, Skip Stam.

So we have this simple one question survey for you.

Will you support the reintroduction of our proposal – which would

create impartial fair redistricting for North Carolina?

“ We served together for eight years and frequently disagreed, but we were in complete agreement on ending the partisan redistricting which has occurred in North Carolina for decades and under both parties “ said Current. “ We want our successors to understand how important it is that we make a change in our redistricting process, how important it is to return fairness to the process. I have been working on this change throughout my career”.

“ Bill and I both feel very strongly that until we end gerrymandering, North Carolina will be stuck in a situation where politicians choose their votes and voters don’t get to choose who represents them. We need to return to a government of, for and by the people and to restore citizen confidence in our state government. We want what is best for the people of North Carolina and for our future. I served in the General Assembly to ensure that North Carolina moves forward.” Rapp stated.

Rapp and Current are working with the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform which has been working to change the way North Carolina does redistricting since it was formed in 2005. It is working with current members of the NC General Assembly, other former and current elected officials as well as civic and business leaders across the state.

Surveys show that an overwhelming majority of North Carolinians want a fair impartial system for redistricting . The model the two former legislators prefer is based on a system used successfully by the state of Iowa since 1980. Unlike in North Carolinians, Iowans are proud of and happy with their redistricting system .

The responses from candidates will be posted on the website http://www.endgerrymanderingnow.org and two Facebook pages, North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform and End Gerrymandering Now. Voters will be able to see how candidates stand on this issue . The two Facebook pages and the website encourage voters to ask candidates how they stand on the issue.

This is what America would look like without Gerrymandering

5 Aug

TUESDAY, AUGUST 5, 2014

This is what America would look like without gerrymandering
Updated by Andrew Prokop on May 8, 2014, 2:00 p.m. ET @awprokop andrew@vox.com

Center for Range Voting
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We’ve written about gerrymandering here on Vox — we’ve described some of the worst examples, and potential reforms that might prevent it. But what would a world without gerrymandering look like? Check out the map above, in which each colored district has a roughly equal population, for a glimpse.

THEIR MAP OF NORTH CAROLINA IS QUITE DIFFERENT FROM OUR LUDICROUSLY GERRYMANDERED ONE

The map was created by the Center for Range Voting, which was founded by math PhD Warren Smith and engineer Jan Kok to float innovative election reform proposals. To make it, they used what they call the shortest splitline algorithm. Basically, they used the shortest possible line to cut a state into two halves with roughly equal populations. Then they did so again, and again, and again, until they had the proper number of overall districts.

The map above crosses state borders, which is impossible in our current system. But the site also features maps for each individual state. Check out the difference between today’s ludicrously gerrymandered North Carolina House map — featuring twisting, snakelike districts that stretch across the state — and the Center’s version:

Screen_shot_2014-05-08_at_12.56.00_pmNcmap

Top: NationalAtlas.gov. Bottom: Center for Range Voting

But it’s important to note that, because of their simplicity, these maps don’t take several things into account. They don’t try to keep historical neighborhoods or regions intact, don’t try to ensure representation of racial minorities, and don’t pay any attention to striking a balance between political parties. (Update: Check out this John Sides post for more on the problems with drawing districts this way.) Still, they provide quite a contrast to the maps we have today.

It’s worth noting Canada also had a gerrymandering problem. This two-minute video explains how they fixed it.

CARD 1 OF 14 LAUNCH CARDS
What is gerrymandering?
In the US, every state elects a certain number of people to the House of Representatives — a number that’s based on the Census count of the state’s population. Pennsylvania, for instance, elects 18 House members. So Pennsylvania has to be divided into 18 congressional districts with roughly equal populations. In most US states, this process is controlled by the majority party in the state legislature.

Partisan gerrymandering occurs when this map-drawing process is intentionally used to benefit a particular political party — to help that party win more seats in the legislature, or more easily protect the ones it has. The goal is to create many districts that will elect members of one party, and only a few that will elect members of the opposite party. You can see Pennsylvania’s Congressional district map below:

Pa_districts

You’ll notice that’s not a very clean map. It’s full of jagged edges and weird outcroppings and sharp turns. That’s no accident. The map was drawn by Pennsylvania’s Republicans in 2010, and it did its job: though Democrats won the state’s popular vote in 2012, Pennsylvania sent more Republicans (red) than Democrats (blue) to Congress:

Pa_us_houseMap: Eric Ostermeier, PoliticsPA.com

To be exact, though House Republicans won only 49 percent of Pennsylvania’s popular vote, they won 72 percent of its House seats.

Gerrymandering can affect any legislative body that has to have districts drawn — which includes both the US House of Representatives, and every state legislature. And since political power is at stake, fights over redistricting are often quite intense.

The term gerrymandering is also sometimes used to describe somewhat different redistricting scenarios. Racial gerrymandering can mean the dilution of the voting power of certain racial or demographic groups, which is usually entangled with seeking partisan advantage. And a bipartisan gerrymander is a redistricting meant to protect incumbents of both parties.

The story of how gerrymandering got its name is actually pretty interesting. You can read it here.

Everything you need to know about gerrymandering
14 CARDS / EDITED BY ANDREW PROKOP UPDATED AUG 5 2014, 12:06A

Isn’t 202 years long enough?

30 Jul

By Larry King
In a past state senate race:
Party A candidates got 51,766 votes
Party B candidates got 50,164 votes

Party A won 11 seats, Party B won 29 seats (sound familiar?)

Party A: Federalists
Party B: Republican
The state: Massachusetts
The date: 1812
The governor: Elbridge Gerry

The birth of gerrymandering.

Isn’t 202 years long enough?

Gerrymandering Reduces Competition, Fuels Partisanship in House Elections

17 Jul

Aending-gerrymandering-collccording to a Washington Post Election Lab projection from May 2014, an incumbent in 405 of the 435 House contests has a 90 percent chance or greater of winning his or her seat, leaving only 30 seats still relatively up for grabs. Other prominent forecasters, such as the Cook or Rothenberg outfits, have similar predictions that approximately 10 percent of House races are competitive.

“In 2002 and 2004, only 7% of congressional contests were decided by a 10% margin or less.”
These numbers follow a trend that has been seen in recent election cycles. In the 2002 and 2004 elections, a majority of congressional races were uncompetitive, as only 7 percent of the contests were decided by a margin of 10 percentage points or fewer.
Though there are numerous factors that explain the predictability of House elections, such as the durability of incumbents and the partisan advantages Democrats and Republicans enjoy in their respective strongholds, one contributor is redistricting — or, more accurately, gerrymandering — by both parties in order to cement partisan hegemony in their states.

Research by ProPublica shows that Republicans launched a concerted effort at redistricting in 2010. That year, Republican strategist Karl Rove published a column affirming that, “He who controls redistricting can control Congress.” Also in 2010, Ed Gillespie became the chairman of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) and made winning state legislatures — which in many states are responsible for drawing congressional districts — a national priority.

First, the RSLC and other Republican groups funneled millions of dollars from various corporations and big-name donors to professed tax-exempt and nonpartisan entities. For instance, the RSLC gave over a million dollars to Real Jobs NC, a group led by millionaire conservative activist Art Pope. Real Jobs NC ran ads against 20 Democrats in North Carolina’s statewide election in 2010, which helped Republicans win control of both legislative chambers.

After winning the state legislature, the RSLC gave money through its related non-disclosing entity, the State Government Leadership Foundation, to pay redistricting experts to redraw North Carolina’s 13 congressional boundaries in a more partisan way. North Carolina Democrats were “packed” into three districts, a feature of what the state’s congressional delegation optimistically called the “10-3 map.”

“The RSLC helped the GOP gain 12 legislatures that redrew electoral districts after the 2010 census.”
In the following 2012 congressional elections, the state’s delegation changed from 7 Democrats and 6 Republicans to 9 Republicans and 4 Democrats, despite Democratic House candidates receiving 50.5 percent of the vote. In Pennsylvania, the outcome was similar: Democratic House contenders won 83,000 more votes statewide but sent 5 Democrats to the House compared to the Republicans’ thirteen.
All in all, the RSLC’s so-called REDMAP project was a national success. It raised $30 million and helped Republicans win 12 legislatures responsible for drawing the district lines for 40 percent of the House’s seats.

During the 2012 elections, GOP candidates in Republican-controlled states won nearly three-quarters of the state’s congressional seats (72%) with slightly more than half (53%) of the vote.

These results compare to those in Democratic-controlled states, some of which also control redistricting. In 2012, Democrats won 71 percent of the available seats in their states with 56 percent of the vote.

Control over the redistricting process allowed them to keep Republicans disproportionately unrepresented in Congress. For instance, in Illinois, Republicans won 45 percent of the vote, but just one-third of the state’s House seats.

Nevertheless, despite Democrats winning more than 1.1 million more votes nationwide, Republicans retained control of the House and even expanded it through a combination of tea party influence and successful redistricting.

“In states where courts, nonpartisan commissions, or divided legislatures redrew the boundaries, the discrepancy between the percentage of votes and seats won was significantly narrower. “
In states where courts, nonpartisan commissions, or divided legislatures redrew the boundaries, the discrepancy between the percentage of votes and seats won was significantly narrower. In these states, Republicans won 46 percent of the vote and 44 percent of the seats.
In recent years, several states have moved to remove partisanship from the redistricting process. In California, for instance, congressional redistricting is now securely in the hands of an outside commission, and Florida no longer allows its electoral borders to be redrawn in a way that secures either party a competitive advantage.

On July 11, 2014, a federal judge in Florida rejected the state legislature’s redistricting plans on the grounds that “Republican political consultants or operatives did in fact conspire to manipulate and influence the redistricting process” and thus violated the state’s Fair Districts constitutional amendment. It is unclear whether the legislature will have to redraw the boundaries for the state’s 17 congressional districts before the 2014 midterm elections.

Members of Congress have also sponsored bills to reform redistricting; however, neither party has shown mass support for such measures. GovTrack, for instance, gave H.R. 278, the “John Tanner Fairness and Independence in Redistricting Act,” a mere one percent chance of being enacted in 2013.

About the Author

Andrew Gripp received his M.A. in Democracy and Governance from Georgetown University in 2012. He writes on politics, international affairs, literature, and philosophy, and he teaches at Delaware County Community College in Media, PA.
Read More by Andrew Gripp

GERRYMANDERING RESTRICTS BALLOT CHOICE

17 Jul

Tuesday, July 15, 20142

Barring a contested election or a race that’s simply too close to call, residents of Edgecombe and Martin counties woke up this morning with a new legislator set to take office in N.C. House District 23.

That’s a big change for Eastern North Carolina voters, who have been ably represented for many years by N.C. Rep. Joe Tolson. Tolson decided not to seek re-election this year.

Tuesday proved to be an interesting election for another reason, too. The candidates – Rusty Holderness and Shelly Willingham – are both Democrats.

They faced each other in a runoff because neither was able to win 40 percent of the vote in a crowded primary in May.

Whoever won Tuesday’s second primary will be the new representative because there is no Republican opponent to face in the fall.

That’s a shame – not because we oppose Democrats – but because North Carolina’s redistricting process has created more and more districts that are heavily stacked in favor of one party or the other. In the wake of the 2010 census, the majority of North Carolina’s congressional and legislative districts have leaned heavily Republican, since Republicans are in the majority of both the N.C. House and the N.C. Senate.

The N.C. General Assembly is responsible for redrawing the districts after every census. Little wonder that the new maps favor the GOP.

Prior to 2010, Democrats controlled both houses of the General Assembly for most of the the past 100 years. The Democrats gerrymandered districts in ways that favored their party for more than a century.

No matter which party holds the reins of power, the system is universally unfair to the voters of North Carolina.

We deserve to have a competitive choice in congressional and legislative races – not an election that has been preordained by partisan legislators armed with maps and databases.

North Carolina’s system for redistricting has been debated and challenged in the court system numerous times. But until the party in charge decides to make a change for a fairer system, we’re likely to have fewer choices on the ballot.

FAIRER N.C. DISTRICTS

17 Jul

Fairer N.C. districts?

Posted: Tuesday, Jul. 15, 2014
From an editorial Tuesday in the Fayetteville Observer:

In district after district, from Congress to the General Assembly, many North Carolina voters will have little choice this fall. With districts carved out to be noncompetitive, incumbents face few challenges. The system doesn’t ensure the integrity of the democratic process, though it does perpetuate the party in power.

North Carolina is hardly the only place where gerrymandering is a problem. Florida voters were so fed up with it that they used their power of ballot amendments, something North Carolina voters don’t have, to include a “Fair Districts” measure in the state constitution in 2010. On Thursday, a judge ruled that the Florida Legislature had ignored this law in creating the state’s congressional map.

There’s an ongoing court challenge to the validity of North Carolina’s district maps as well. A bill proposed last year could have embraced fairness for future redistricting. Rep. Paul Stam, a Wake County Republican, spearheaded the Nonpartisan Redistricting Process Bill, along with a group of sponsors from both sides of the aisle. The measure passed the House on a first reading, but was then sent to committee where it seems to have died.

Given the mess being created by the court ruling in Florida, next year’s legislative session would be a good time for lawmakers to make another attempt at bipartisan and fair districting reforms. Better it come from them soon than the courts later.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/07/15/5045816/fairer-nc-districts.html#.U8gl6VYk-DU#storylink=cpy

GOP HOLDS HOUSE ADVANTAGE:Redistricting gives Republicans edge in states that voted for Obama in 2012

17 Jul

Posted: Sunday, July 13, 2014 12:21 am

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Democrats have long claimed that Republicans abused their legislative powers to elect a disproportionate number of U.S. House members. Now a Florida court is lending credence to their complaint.
The full impact of the Florida ruling — plus a similar lawsuit pending in North Carolina — won’t be known for some while. For now, at least, they shine light on the fiercely partisan practice of gerrymandering, in which state officials draw congressional districts to help their party.
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Republicans and Democrats have engaged in gerrymandering for decades. Republicans refined the practice in 2011, a year after they won control of numerous state governments preparing to redraw congressional maps based on the 2010 census. It’s one reason Republicans hold a solid House majority even though Americans cast 1.4 million more votes for Democratic House candidates than for GOP House candidates in 2012.
Florida is a prime example of Democrats’ frustration. President Barack Obama carried the state twice, but Florida’s U.S. House delegation has 17 Republicans and 10 Democrats.
A Florida judge ruled Thursday that the GOP-controlled state legislature illegally drew congressional districts to primarily benefit the Republican Party, and ordered them redrawn. The legislature is expected to appeal the ruling, and this fall’s elections are unlikely to be affected.
Republicans haven’t controlled the White House or U.S. Senate for more than five years. Yet their House majority — now 234 to 199 — looks safe this fall. Redistricting episodes in Florida and North Carolina help explain why.
Republicans hold nine of North Carolina’s 13 U.S. House seats, and they have solid prospects to make it 10. Their nominee is favored to win a district, which Obama lost by 19 percentage points, being vacated by centrist Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre.
In recent statewide elections, North Carolina has been about as evenly divided as a state can be. Obama narrowly won it once, and lost it once. Voters replaced a Democratic governor with a Republican in 2012. Each party has one U.S. senator, and this fall’s re-election bid by Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is likely to be extremely close.
Several other states have sent more Republicans to Congress than their presidential voting patterns would suggest. Obama carried Ohio twice, but Republicans control its U.S. House delegation 12-4. Pennsylvania hasn’t backed a GOP presidential nominee since 1988, but it has 13 House Republicans and five Democrats.
The House makeup is similar in other states that Obama won twice, including Virginia (8-3 Republican), Michigan (9-5 Republican) and Wisconsin (5-3 Republican).
The only state trending the other way is Arizona. Obama lost it twice, yet it has five House Democrats and four Republicans.
A chief reason for the imbalance is the often politicized state-by-state practice of redrawing the House’s 435 districts after each once-a-decade Census. Districts are apportioned by population, with each state getting at least one House member.
Americans’ mobility patterns also helped, as millions of liberals continue to move to urban areas. This so-called “self-gerrymandering” makes it easier for Republican mapmakers to pack as many Democratic voters as possible into a handful of districts. That helps Republicans win a larger number of districts by smaller but still-safe margins.
In North Carolina, Republican officials drew three House districts that twisted and snaked to include as many black neighborhoods, and other likely Democratic areas, as possible. In the 2012 elections, these three districts recorded overwhelming Democratic majorities. Obama lost the other 10 districts by margins ranging from 13 to 23 percentage points.
Republicans won their 9-4 U.S. House edge even as North Carolinians cast more votes for Democratic House candidates overall.
Democrats are asking the state Supreme Court to rule the redistricting unconstitutional. Black voters were packed so densely into three districts, they contend, that their overall political clout was unduly diminished.
“We’ve got a red government imposed on a purple state,” said Ferrel Guillory, a University of North Carolina professor who advised the plaintiffs.
Republicans defend the map, noting that they followed state laws enacted when Democrats controlled the government. “We would expect our maps to be vindicated completely,” GOP state Sen. Bob Rucho said at the time.
David Rouzer, who had been an aide to Republican Sen. Jesse Helms, came within 654 votes of ousting McIntyre in 2012 in the 7th District, which includes several southeastern counties. Now that McIntyre is retiring, Rouzer is favored to win.
Relaxing in a Raleigh coffee shop before a recent fundraiser, Rouzer said McIntyre had found it harder and harder to persuade anti-Obama voters to support him. “A lot of people feel like the country is in big trouble,” Rouzer said, citing the federal deficit, unemployment and other concerns.
Democratic Rep. David Price, D-N.C., who has spent 25 years in Congress, sees political chicanery in North Carolina’s U.S. House map.
“It’s the most extreme gerrymandering, on a purely partisan basis, I think we’ve ever seen,” Price said.

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