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Posted by on Feb 20, 2015

Majority of N.C. House members support bill to end gerrymandering

A bipartisan majority of N.C. House members are sponsoring a bill to end gerrymandering in North Carolina.

In all, 63 lawmakers have lent their names to House Bill 92 – the largest number of sponsors for a redistricting reform measure ever in the state.

The proposal would take the power of drawing congressional and legislative voting maps out of the hands of partisan lawmakers and give it to nonpartisan legislative staff, beginning with the next round of redistricting in 2021.

“Redistricting reform is an idea whose time has come,” said House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam, a Wake County Republican and one of the chief authors of the bill. “This is an insurance policy to protect each party from gerrymandering.”

Under North Carolina’s longstanding system, whichever party controls the legislature also controls redistricting. For decades, the result has been voting maps that heavily favor one party or the other and reduce competition at the ballot box.

Since 1992, an average of 43 percent of legislative races have had only one candidate on the ballot. And just 8 percent of last year’s legislative races were truly competitive, being decided by 5 percentage points or less.

“Gerrymandering undermines voter confidence in our election system,” Democratic Minority Leader Larry Hall of Durham said. “I am proud to be working with this bipartisan coalition to ensure citizens have a real voice in their government.”

Sponsors of the legislation include not only longtime lawmakers like Stam — who first filed a redistricting reform bill 26 years ago — but also five freshman Republican legislators.

“At a time when there is so much polarization in politics, it’s powerful to see Republicans and Democrats from across our state working together to end gerrymandering in North Carolina,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of the nonpartisan Common Cause North Carolina. “This bill is a great step forward in protecting the right of citizens to choose their representatives.”

A 2013 poll commissioned by the nonpartisan N.C. Center for Voter Education found 70 percent of North Carolina voters in favor of creating an impartial redistricting process, including 73 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of independents.