Nonpartisan redistricting is still right thing to do
By Jon Hardister
Being a good legislator requires honesty, hard work and humility. It also involves being consistent in the quest to establish a better form of government. That is why I am a consistent advocate for redistricting reform in North Carolina.
Every 10 years, after the decennial census, the state legislature is tasked with the responsibility of redrawing N.C. House, N.C. Senate and congressional districts. Under the present system, the political party in power has the ability to draw these districts to its political advantage. This process is commonly referred to as “gerrymandering.”
Prior to 2010, when Democrats held the majority in the state legislature, I advocated for redistricting reform. I wrote a paper about it when I was in college, and I wrote letters to members of the state legislature pleading with them to reform our redistricting process. Redistricting reform was also part of my campaign platform when I first ran for the N.C. House in 2010.
Democrats had plenty of chances to enact redistricting reform when they were in the majority in North Carolina. Redistricting reform bills were filed in the state legislature year after year when Democrats were in power, but none of these bills passed. It was the right thing to do, but it never happened.
Now we have a Republican majority in the state legislature, and redistricting reform is still the right thing to do. It would be inconsistent for me to suddenly abandon my position on this issue now that my political party is in power. This was the right thing to do when Democrats were in power, and it is still the right thing to do today.
HB 92 — Nonpartisan Redistricting Process — was filed in the N.C. House on Feb. 16 of this year. I am honored to be a primary sponsor of this bill along with Rep. Skip Stam (R-Wake), Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) and Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake). There are 63 co-sponsors of the bill, which indicates there is strong bipartisan support for this effort.
This bill would require the General Assembly’s legislative services office to draw the legislative districts. There would be oversight provided by a bipartisan commission that consists of private citizens. When the districts are completed, the legislature would be required to approve them. If the legislature were to reject the plan three times, then the legislature would be allowed to draw the districts. It is necessary to allow the legislature to grant final approval of the plan in order to meet constitutional requirements.
It is true that we cannot completely eliminate the influence of politics when it comes to redistricting reform. That is because the process would still involve people, and people have personal opinions. But we can reduce the influence of politics in the redistricting process, and that is exactly what this bill would do.
Republicans need not worry about giving up the power of drawing legislative districts. If we continue to pass sound legislation and provide effective leadership, then we will continue to be elected. I would also remind my fellow Republicans that we may not be in the legislative majority during future redistricting efforts. If this were the case, then we would benefit (and our citizens would benefit) from having a nonpartisan redistricting process in place.
It is important that we work to make government better for all of our citizens. This should be a consistent goal of anyone who has the privilege of serving in public office. As a state legislator, I know that this is the right thing to do on behalf of the citizens of North Carolina.
Jon Hardister is a second-term Republican representative from House District 59. He lives in Greensboro.