18 Sep

Click on the links below to find out how the candidates asking for your vote stand on Ending Gerrymandering NOW

See how Candidates for the North Carolina House Stand

See how candidates for the North Carolina Senate Stand

Ex-lawmaker urges end to gerrymandering

17 Sep

Gaston Gazette

Legislative roundup: Ex-lawmaker urges end to gerrymandering

By Kevin Ellis
Published: Sunday, September 7, 2014 at 22:25 PM.

A former Republican legislator from Gaston County says state lawmakers need to end political gerrymandering for the good of the state.

William Current, who represented parts of Gaston County in the state House from 2008 through 2012, has been asking candidates for the General Assembly if they’ll support legislation creating a nonpartisan commission to redraw political lines. He’s joined by former Rep. Ray Rapp, a Democrat from Madison County, in an effort orchestrated by the nonpartisan group North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform.
A nonpartisan commission would bring North Carolina “closer to the old adage of ‘one man, one vote’” after the 2020 census, Current said last week.

North Carolina’s GOP-led legislature redrew political districts in 2011, and those lines have withstood court challenges and won Department of Justice approval. But Current said while he may not be able to prove it, he believes they remain too political. In too many districts, a challenger would not stand a chance against the status quo, he said.

“It’s a shame we don’t have competition on ideas, competition on what’s best for all of the people,” Current said.

In the 2014 general elections, 20 of 50 state Senate seats are unopposed, while 59 out of 120 House seats lack a challenger across the state.

In Gaston County, of the five state legislative seats up for election this year, none lured Democratic candidates. Those include seats held by Republican Sens. Kathy Harrington of Gastonia and David Curtis of Lincoln County and Republican Reps. Dana Bumgardner, Kelly Hastings and John Torbett, all of Gaston County.
“There’s a lot of places (across North Carolina) that look pretty solid and no one’s willing to throw their hat into the ring because they can’t win, and that’s not good for the long-term success of the republic,” Current said.

Hastings said Republicans were guided by constitutional principles and laws when they redrew political lines in 2011. He said he doesn’t believe the state needs to change its ways when it comes to redistricting.
“The recent redistricting by the Republican-controlled legislature was fair and legal,” Hastings said. “Due to the fairness and legality of the drawn districts, I don’t think a commission is necessary.”
Torbett agreed, saying, “I think the process we have in place works.”

“I would not support a nonpartisan commission because I don’t believe there is such a thing,” Bumgardner added.
Hastings pointed out Democrats drew the political lines when they had control of North Carolina before the 2010 elections.

Current says that Democrats tried to re-draw lines to their advantage for years, but that doesn’t make it right for Republicans.

“The Democrats did it for years and years, and it’s odd that you criticize something, and then do it yourself,” Current said.

Current and Rapp were both primary sponsors of a 2011 bill that would have created a nonpartisan commission to redraw political lines. The measure passed the House but did not get through the Senate.

Cumberland County Democrat Rep. Rick Glazier and Wake County Republican House Speaker Pro-Tem Skip Stam plan to introduce a similar bill in 2015.

The responses from 2014 candidates will be posted on the website and two Facebook pages, North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform and End Gerrymandering Now.

Current says Republican lawmakers should sign on for the good of North Carolina.
“Don’t do the same things that got done to you for so long,” Current said, “because that dog will come back to bite you.”

You can reach Kevin Ellis at 704-869-1823 or

Redistricting Means Victory All But Assured For Many Candidates

16 Sep


November’s general election is still more than a month away, but many races were already decided months ago.

That’s due to gerrymandering which is the process where one political party can dice up the legislative districts in way that’s advantageous to them. One prime example is the snake-like 12thcongressional district, which winds its way from Greensboro down to Mecklenburg County. According to an analysis by the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, North Carolina is one of the most gerrymandered states.

WFDD’s Paul Garber spoke with Jane Pinsky, director of the nonpartisan group North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. She says gerrymandering has to stop because it hurts democracy.

Listen Listening… 3:14 Jane Pinsky talks about the impact of voter maps in North Carolina and what she’d like to see changed.
“In the long run, the citizens in the district are the losers,” says Pinsky. “It’s even more dangerous now because computers let us draw maps in the most minute of details. With a computer I can figure out which two houses I need to split a district between because I have voting patterns, voting records and voting registration.”

Pinsky says because they live in one-sided districts, many politicians no longer have to work to be re-elected. She offers some suggestions about how the state’s voter maps can be fixed, and what citizens can do to encourage change.


Former Members of US House and Senate agree ending gerrymandering can help make our government work

8 Sep


Former Washington insiders think they have a plan to make Congress work
By Tim Funk
Posted: Saturday, Sep. 06, 2014


In its report, the bipartisan Commission on Political Reform makes 65 recommendations designed to solve problems afflicting the country’s political process. Here are some that are getting attention.

• Problem

Congress spends too little time legislating.


The House and Senate should schedule synchronized, five-day workweeks in Washington, with three weeks in session followed by a one-week recess.

• Problem

The White House and Congress don’t talk to each other enough.


The president should hold monthly meetings with congressional leaders. Those leaders should invite the president to attend joint caucuses twice a year.

• Problem

Threatened and real filibusters have left the Senate in gridlock.


Eliminate filibusters on motions to proceed to a bill by limiting debate to two hours. In return, the Senate majority should allow the minority to file 10 floor amendments.

• Problem

Legislative and congressional districts are drawn to favor one party, resulting in noncompetitive districts where voters on the far right or far left dominate.


States should adopt independent redistricting commissions that have the bipartisan support of the legislature and the electorate.
• Problem

Voter turnout in congressional primaries tends to be low and many voters are unclear about when primary elections are held.


States should create a single national congressional primary date in June, which would bring more media attention. States should allow independents to vote in primaries. States and parties should strive – by making it easier to register, for example – to raise voter turnout in primaries to 30 percent by 2020 and 35 percent by 2026.

• Problem

Fewer Americans are aspiring to careers in public service.


Everyone 18 to 28 should commit to one year of service in their communities or at a national level. Possible options: the military, civilian service (Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, etc.), run for office.

• Problem

Young people are less likely to vote, pursue public service and be aware of issues.


Better provide students with core values, knowledge and ideas from U.S. history and civics that will encourage them to be more engaged citizens. Universities should encourage students to serve the public.

• Problem

Americans don’t know enough about who is financing elections.


Require disclosure of all political contributors.
Read the commission’s report

Compiled by Tim Funk

It’s easy to blame just politicians for the partisanship and paralysis. But in its report, the Commission on Political Reform suggests that Congress and state legislatures are reflecting a widening split in the heartland. The commission calls for voters to be more open to opinions and politicians with whom they may not agree.

Besides the basics – register to vote, go to the polls and contact your representatives – here are four suggestions from the commission about what you can do to improve the political process.

1. Do your job as a citizen by getting more engaged.

Officeholders work for you. So study the issues, make your views known, get involved, maybe even run for office. “Successful democracies require an educated citizenry who actively participates in civic life,” the commission said. “Americans must re-engage in ways that reinforce the notion that, as Americans, we are all part of a common enterprise that requires a lifetime of civic engagement.”

2. In exchange for your vote, expect candidates to tell you how they’ll work across party lines to get things done. Reward those who get results; punish those who don’t.

Candidates know how to read polls and have learned what rhetoric will win them applause. But the commission calls on voters to demand more, seeking commitments that candidates will do what it takes – even compromise – to deal with problems.

“For most politicians,” the commission report said, “there is simply far less risk in telling their electorate what it wants to hear than in reaching across the aisle and engaging in the hard work of consensus-oriented legislating.”

3. Push your state to make the redistricting process more open to the public and less partisan.

The commission calls for states to make technological redistricting tools accessible to individuals and groups. Then the states should hold contests so people and groups can submit redistricting plans “to encourage citizen engagement and to ensure that the line-drawers are informed about as many public opinions as possible.”

4. Get out of your “echo chamber” by connecting with people – and watching TV programming – that may not agree with you on most issues.

“The causes and manifestations (of the ideological divide) are many,” the commission said. “But we note the polarizing choices that Americans make in the news they seek out, the people with whom they associate, and the political ads that they watch. … As the American people move further and further apart into separate ideological and cultural camps, is it any wonder that those they send to Washington are doing so as well?” Tim Funk

Their combined experience in Congress adds up to more than a century – 119 years, to be exact.

But now these former members of the Senate and House – three Republicans, two Democrats – are sounding the alarm in this election year about a Washington that has become so polarized, dysfunctional and unpopular that they asked whether democracy can function effectively in such a partisan atmosphere.

It can, say these co-chairs of the Commission on Political Reform, but only if Americans demand more bipartisan problem-solving and less ideological rancor. Armed with a new report that calls for changing Congress, the electoral system and Americans’ commitment to public service, the commission’s leaders are barnstorming the country to build support for this plan they’re calling a blueprint to end gridlock in Washington.

Two of them will be in Charlotte on Thursday night. Speaking to a sold-out audience of 600-plus at uptown’s Booth Playhouse will be Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican who left the Senate in 2013 out of frustration over inaction, and Dan Glickman, a Kansas Democrat who served in the House and as President Bill Clinton’s secretary of agriculture.

Moderating the evening’s conversation: Erskine Bowles of Charlotte, a former White House chief of staff. Like the out-of-town speakers, Democrat Bowles also established a reputation for seeking bipartisan solutions as co-chair, with former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, better known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

The Thursday event will inaugurate “Our Times, Re-imagined: A Distinguished Speakers Series,” organized by The Charlotte Observer and underwritten by Bank of America.

Besides Snowe and Glickman, the other co-chairs of the 29-member commission are former Senate majority leaders Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Trent Lott, R-Miss., and former Sen. Dirk Kempthorne, R-Idaho.

A fountain of ideas

The group was launched in March 2013 by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington-based nonprofit. After 18 months of investigation and deliberation – including four national town hall meetings – the commission produced a 109-page report with 65 recommendations.

The proposals address everything from filibusters (limit them) to campaign donors (identify them) to congressional workweeks (extend them).

The House and Senate, the commissioners say, should start working five-day weeks to spend more time legislating.

States, they say, should end gerrymandering of congressional districts by getting independent, not partisan, groups to draw the lines.

They also suggest raising the low voter turnout in congressional primaries by holding all of them around the country on the same day in June.

And to spark more interest in public service, the commissioners say people 18 to 28 should be encouraged to spend a year in the military, the Peace Corps or some other form of service.

Besides being a fountain of ideas, the commission also could be a model for a Congress whose inability to find bipartisan solutions has driven its public approval rating into single digits.

“We had people of dramatically different ideological perspectives,” Glickman said of the commission. “But if you spend enough time and you’re focused on an objective, I think compromise and consensus-building are possible and even likely.”

The group didn’t agree on how to reduce the power of money in politics. And there are no proposals for checking the influence of lobbyists.

Still, some former and current members of Congress from the Carolinas welcomed the report, if not all of its recommendations.

“A good solid piece of work,” said former Rep. John Spratt, a York, S.C., Democrat, who chaired the House Budget Committee.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, the Indian Land, S.C., Republican who unseated Spratt in 2010, agreed: “It’s a very insightful document, clearly written by people who understand the issues we face.”

A call for action

Most of the commission’s recommendations call for action by Congress or the states.

But despite good reviews from some incumbents, Snowe said none of these changes are likely to happen unless the public pressures politicians to act. That’s why she and Glickman are coming to Charlotte: to urge voters to help them.

“I want to convey to people that they have it within their grasp to do something about this,” Snowe told the Observer. “If we all stand back and sit on the sidelines, then obviously no change can occur. But if we get involved and demand accountability on the part of those in office and those running for office, it can make a profound difference.”

She said she decided not to run for a fourth term in the Senate because she realized that Congress would never correct itself; it would have to be pushed from the outside.

“I was not giving up when I left Congress. I was taking my fight in a different direction,” Snowe said. “I thought, given my experience in the legislative arena, I could convince people that they had the power to change it. And to make them understand that politicians need incentives like everybody else and that the incentive to change and build consensus has to be reinforced by the public.”

Glickman’s exit from Congress was involuntary. After 18 years, he lost his Wichita district in the 1994 Republican wave that made Newt Gingrich speaker of the House. He said he kept his seat for so long by listening to constituents. Members of Congress are still all ears, he said, but they don’t often hear much from moderate voters.

“What’s happening is that members of Congress largely hear from people from the extremes,” he said. “There’s got to be a way for those people (in the middle) to speak up more vociferously and also let members of Congress know that they’re watching them and watching their votes if they don’t really try to work things out and get things done.”

Snowe, one of the few moderates to survive in a GOP that has moved increasingly to the right, said this domination by the far right and far left in Congress and in the two political parties has spawned the polarization and paralysis that the commission is addressing.

“We do not want to institutionalize this political culture that reflects a ‘can’t-do’ attitude. America has always been ‘can-do,’ ” Snowe said. “That doesn’t mean we haven’t had our arguments and ferocious disagreements. But we’ve always managed to resolve those differences … and, at the end of the day, solve the problems.”

Time in D.C. or the district?

The Observer asked past and present members of Congress from the Carolinas about the commission’s recommendations. The most popular idea is the five-day workweek for senators and House members.

“If they spent a lot more of their time in Washington, even Monday through Friday, their families would likely live there and there would be less disrespect because they’d get to know each other and each other’s families,” said former North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin, a Republican who represented Charlotte in the House in the 1970s and ’80s. “If you and I have a difference of agreement on something but we know each other and respect each other, we’re going to find some kind of accommodation.”

Freshman Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., worried the workweek proposal would cut into time with constituents. Returning often to his district in and around Charlotte is “a reality check. D.C. is its own little world,” he said. “You want to know what your people are thinking. And some of these (House members) have 14 or 15 counties. It’s not like I’m going to fly home to my one city. You’ve got to be out in the field.”

Pittenger did like a recommendation that the president meet monthly with congressional leaders. So did fellow GOP Rep. Mulvaney, who said it was refreshing for the bipartisan group to recognize the president needs to be more engaged in the process.

He said he’s not been critical of President Barack Obama’s time on the golf course, only that he’s chosen to play with celebrities instead of with members of Congress, people he needs to know better if he wants to get things done.

“The job of president involves working with Congress,” Mulvaney said.

Spratt called most of the commission’s proposals practical and modest, which he said may mean they’ll have a better chance of being implemented than more ambitious “academic” recommendations that have poor prospects in the “the real world of politics.”

The Senate candidates say …

And with Election Day now less than two months away, what do U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and her GOP challenger, N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, think?

Hagan saluted the commission for promoting bipartisanship and said in a statement she also endorsed its call to disclose the identities of all campaign donors to expose the “dark money” in elections.

“Shadowy outside groups have been allowed to spend millions of dollars on television ads without disclosing where their money comes from or who is behind them,” Hagan said in the statement.

Tillis said in a statement that the commission “has done a great job of starting a conversation.”

He expressed support for a few proposals, including its call for greater communication between the president and Congress and for a different approach to redistricting.

“I’ve been a proud supporter of non-partisan redistricting reform in Raleigh and will continue to be an advocate in the U.S. Senate,” he said, adding that he agreed with the commission’s theme that “it’s time for Washington to … finally get something done for the American people.”

Funk: 704-358-5703

Read more here:

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 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


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

Center for Range Voting
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.


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:


Top: 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.

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:


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,

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

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?


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