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Posted by on Feb 9, 2017

‘Gerrymandering removes pesky choices from your ballot!’

This ad is ridiculous … but so is gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is the longtime practice of partisan politicians drawing our state’s voting maps to unfairly favor their own party. In turn, opposing candidates have little or no chance of winning in these manipulated districts, and often don’t bother to run at all, leaving voters with no choice and no voice in who represents them.

Fortunately, a growing number of citizens and political leaders across the political spectrum agree that we need independent redistricting reform.

TAKE ACTION! Sign the petition to end gerrymandering now.

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Posted by on Jan 11, 2017

Coalition calls on NC legislature to enact independent redistricting

A coalition of conservative and progressive organizations met at the state legislature on Wednesday’s opening day of the new legislative session to call on lawmakers to adopt a plan that would take partisan politics out of the way voting maps are drawn in North Carolina.

Redistricting could be a top issue in the legislature’s session after a federal court ruled that dozens of North Carolina’s legislative districts were racially gerrymandered and must be redrawn. The US Supreme Court may ultimately decide that case.

“For decades, North Carolina’s redistricting process has been broken. Gerrymandering has led to costly lawsuits and delayed elections, while leaving voters of all political parties without a real voice in choosing their representatives,” said Jane Pinsky, director of the nonpartisan NC Coalition for Lobbying & Government Reform, which organized the press conference. “This is a perfect opportunity for lawmakers to show their dedication to serving the people of North Carolina by adopting impartial redistricting.”

The good-government coalition is urging lawmakers to enact a plan that would take redistricting authority out of the hands of partisan legislators and instead give that power to nonpartisan legislative staff. That independent staff would in turn be required to follow strict criteria when drawing congressional and legislative voting maps, such as keeping districts compact and following the federal Voting Rights Act.

A similar proposal was approved by the NC House with bipartisan support in 2011, but did not receive a vote in the NC Senate. It was re-introduced in 2013, and again 2015, then with a majority of House members co-sponsoring the measure, but the bill stalled in committee.

Pinsky said that with the latest court ruling ordering a new round of redistricting, the time may have arrived for reform.

“North Carolinians are tired of the endless controversy around redistricting and they are saying ‘enough is enough.’ It’s time to finally end gerrymandering,” Pinsky said.

Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation, said that independent redistricting would protect the right of voters to have a say in who represents them.

“Regardless of the outcome of the current legal disputes, North Carolina needs a new process for drawing its election maps,” Kokai said. “Representative government is based on the key principle that voters must retain ultimate sovereignty. In other words, voters must choose their elected leaders, not the other way around.”

Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said independent redistricting would benefit both sides of the political aisle.

“The political pendulum never stands still. No party is guaranteed to be in power forever,” Phillips said. “So it’s in everyone’s best interest for North Carolina to create a new redistricting process that provides fair representation for both parties.”

Over 240 civic leaders across North Carolina have signed a petition calling on the legislature to pass independent redistricting reform. And a dozen towns and cities across the state have passed resolutions in support of independent redistricting. Over 100 North Carolina business leaders have launched a coalition calling for an end to gerrymandering. Gov. Roy Cooper is on record opposing gerrymandering, as are former governors Pat McCrory, Jim Martin and Jim Hunt.

The NC Coalition for Lobbying & Government Reform is a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting good-government policies that level the playing field for the citizens of North Carolina.

TAKE ACTION! Sign the petition to end gerrymandering in NC

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Posted by on Aug 29, 2016

Retired judges unveil new, unofficial NC congressional map

Retired judges unveil new, unofficial NC congressional map

A nonpartisan panel of retired judges on Monday unveiled a new, but unofficial, congressional map for North Carolina to demonstrate how independent redistricting can work in the state.

The new congressional map is the culmination of a four-month-long redistricting simulation launched as a joint project with Duke University and Common Cause North Carolina. Comprised of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, the panel of eight retired judges was led by former N.C. Supreme Court chief justices Rhoda Billings and Henry Frye.

The nonpartisan panel created the 13 new congressional districts free from partisan politics. The group’s goals were to draw geographically compact districts with equal populations, while also complying with the federal Voting Rights Act.

“Although we have different political backgrounds, we put that aside to draw districts in a fair and impartial way,” said Frye, a Democrat.

Billings, a Republican, said, “The members of the panel took very seriously the mission – to create congressional districts without considering politics. In the process we found that it is not possible to adhere to laws and court decisions applicable to redistricting without crossing county lines.”

While the panel of former judges did not look at any political data when drawing the congressional map, the result is a more competitive set of districts than the existing congressional map created by the North Carolina General Assembly.

An analysis of the judges’ map shows six likely Republican districts, four likely Democratic districts and three toss-up districts. That compares to 10 likely Republican districts, three likely Democratic districts and no toss-up districts under the congressional map drawn by state lawmakers earlier this year. Legislative leaders have stated that their congressional map was crafted primarily with maintaining partisan advantage in mind.

Tom Ross, former UNC system president and the Terry Sanford Distinguished Fellow at the Sanford School of Public Policy, initiated the project and advised the panel of judges during the redistricting simulation.

“The panel did an outstanding job of following the clear criteria of achieving equal population, compactness and compliance with the Voting Rights Act, while leaving out partisan political consideration,” Ross said. “We believe this exercise shows how impartial redistricting can produce voting maps that are free from partisan gerrymandering and accurately reflect the population of North Carolina.”

The legislature is responsible for drawing North Carolina’s federal congressional and state legislative districts. However, the process has frequently led to controversy, with more than 30 court interventions in the state’s redistricting process over the past three decades.

Earlier this year, a federal court ruled that the legislature had unconstitutionally gerrymandered two of the state’s 13 congressional districts along racial lines. That ruling forced the N.C. General Assembly to redraw the districts and delayed the state’s congressional primaries from March to June.

The current system produces consistently safe congressional districts, Ross said, in which elected representatives can ignore voters who disagree with them and respond only to the like-minded people who elect them. The result is polarization, gridlock and “loss of belief in our democracy,” Ross said.

Bob Phillips, executive director of the nonpartisan nonprofit organization Common Cause NC, said there is increasing support for independent redistricting in North Carolina.

“We are seeing growing agreement among voters and political leaders from both sides of the political aisle that we need to take partisanship out of the way voting maps are drawn in North Carolina,” Phillips said. “The work done by these former judges shows how a truly impartial redistricting process could be successfully adopted in North Carolina.”

Phillips noted that both Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper are on record opposing gerrymandering, as are former governors Jim Hunt, a Democrat, and Jim Martin, a Republican. In April a Public Policy Polling survey found nearly 60 percent of North Carolina voters would favor an independent system of redistricting. Just 9 percent opposed such a move.

The Sanford School of Public Policy is one of the nation’s leading schools of public policy. It offers undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees in public policy and international development policy. North Carolina Gov. Terry Sanford, then president of Duke, established the school in 1972.

Common Cause North Carolina is a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging citizen participation in democracy, and is part of the national Common Cause grassroots network of 400,000 members in 35 states.

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Posted by on Aug 5, 2016

Common Cause files landmark lawsuit against partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina

Common Cause launched a potentially landmark lawsuit in federal court today directly challenging the foundation of partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina.

Filed in the Middle District Court in Greensboro, the challenge in Common Cause v. Rucho could be a watershed moment in the fight against gerrymandering. While judges have weighed in on racial gerrymandering and set constraints for such factors as equal population in drawing voting maps, the courts have largely avoided determining if partisan gerrymandering is legal.

The lawsuit filed by Common Cause seeks to resolve that lingering question, arguing that manipulation of voting maps for partisan gain is unconstitutional.

Common Cause North Carolina has been a longtime opponent of all forms of gerrymandering, working with a broad bipartisan coalition to champion impartial redistricting for more than a decade.

The move to challenge partisan gerrymandering in the courts comes just months after North Carolina lawmakers were required to redraw congressional districts found by a panel of federal judges to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. Legislative leaders replaced that racially gerrymandered congressional map with what they openly boasted were partisan gerrymanders, crafted with the sole aim of unfairly maximizing their party’s advantage.

“Perhaps for the first time ever in North Carolina, state legislators have freely and publicly admitted that they gerrymandered for rank partisan advantage,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. “That open admission was done because the courts have placed limits on racial gerrymandering, but have left unanswered the question of whether partisan gerrymandering is allowable. We believe our case can finally make clear that gerrymandering of any kind violates the constitutional rights of North Carolina voters.”

Phillips added, “What is at stake is whether politicians have the power to manipulate voting maps to unjustly insulate themselves from accountability, or whether voters have the fundamental right as Americans to choose their representatives in fair and open elections. We believe this is a vital case that could strike at the very foundation of gerrymandering.”

The challenge in Common Cause v. Rucho argues that the legislature’s blatant partisan gerrymander is a clear violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The full lawsuit filing can be read online at cmnca.us/vRucho.

The North Carolina gerrymandering suit comes as Common Cause has filed a separate court challenge to gerrymandered voting maps drawn by Maryland Democrats.

North Carolina has long felt the negative impact of partisan gerrymandering. Since 1992, nearly half of all legislative races have had just one candidate on the ballot, leaving millions of voters with no choice at the ballot box. Similarly, the state’s congressional maps have been gerrymandered by the legislature in such a way as to minimize competition, undermining the right of voters to have a voice in who represents them.

In the face of ongoing gerrymandering, there has been growing bipartisan support for reform. Last year, a majority of NC House members co-sponsored House Bill 92, which would have taken the power of redistricting out of the hands of partisan legislators and given it to nonpartisan legislative staff. However, that bill was not given a vote in the legislature.

At the same time, over 240 civic leaders across North Carolina have signed a petition calling on the legislature to pass independent redistricting reform. And both Gov. Pat McCrory and his 2016 gubernatorial opponent, Attorney General Roy Cooper, are on record opposing gerrymandering, as are former governors Jim Martin and Jim Hunt.

Common Cause North Carolina is a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging citizen participation in democracy, and is part of the national Common Cause grassroots network of 400,000 members in 35 states.

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