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Posted by on Apr 27, 2015

As crossover deadline approaches, will redistricting reform get a vote?

A proposal to reduce the influence of partisan politics in the way North Carolina’s voting maps are drawn has broad, bipartisan support in the N.C. House. Yet the bill appears in danger of being denied a vote in that chamber.

A majority of House members are co-sponsoring House Bill 92, which would take the power of drawing congressional and legislative districts out of the hands of partisan lawmakers and give it to nonpartisan legislative staff, beginning with the next round of redistricting in 2021.

But while an overwhelming number of House members have voiced their support for the measure, House Bill 92 is yet to be taken up by the House Elections Committee.

The “crossover deadline” is Thursday, and most bills – including the redistricting reform measure – must pass at least one chamber by that date in order to be eligible for consideration during the remainder of the 2015-2016 legislative session.

Several facts help make the case for taking up House Bill 92:

• Of the roughly 200 bills passed so far this year by the House, only two have more sponsors than the 63 sponsors enjoyed by House Bill 92.

• In fact, among the bills passed by the House, the average number of sponsors is just 11 – far below House Bill 92.

• Both current co-chairs of the House Elections Committee – Rep. Bert Jones and Rep. David Lewis – voted for a similar plan in 2011, as did current N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore. Jones also co-sponsored a nearly identical proposal in 2013.

Over 170 local elected officials across North Carolina have recently voiced their support for redistricting reform.

• Redistricting reform is widely supported by the public, with a 2013 poll conducted by the N.C. Center for Voter Education finding 70 percent of North Carolina voters in favor of implementing an independent process for drawing voting maps, including 73 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of unaffiliated voters.

“Redistricting reform has strong, bipartisan support among lawmakers and the public,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of the nonpartisan Common Cause North Carolina. “We hope legislative leaders will allow House Bill 92 to have the vote it clearly deserves.”

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Posted by on Apr 21, 2015

Municipal leaders across N.C. support effort to end gerrymandering

Almost 170 municipal elected officials from across North Carolina have added their names to North Carolinians to End Gerrymandering Now, an effort spearheaded by former mayors Richard Vinroot of Charlotte and Charles Meeker of Raleigh.

In all, 168 municipal leaders representing 109 different municipalities so far have joined Vinroot and Meeker to encourage lawmakers in the General Assembly to enact a nonpartisan redistricting process.

In addition to the local officials supporting redistricting reform, 63 members of the N.C. House have sponsored House Bill 92 – a proposal that 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.

“We are so pleased to see this effort we started grow to almost 170 leaders from both parties across the state,” said former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot. “This groundswell of support highlights how important this issue is to a wide range of communities and how eager our fellow municipal leaders are to see a redistricting system that is fair to voters, not just politicians.”

“This growing list of leaders represents all corners of North Carolina from our biggest cities to our smallest towns,” former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said. “I am honored to be a part of this growing movement to finally ensure that every vote is equal and every voter has a voice on Election Day.”

North Carolina’s current redistricting process ensures that whichever party is in control of the legislature can draw new districts to favor their party, which reduces competition and leads to greater political polarization. Both major parties in the state have been guilty of gerrymandering and since 1992 an average of 43 percent of legislative races have had only one candidate on the ballot.

“The municipal leaders on this list reflect the diversity of North Carolina and we’re excited to see them all united to take the politics out of redistricting,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of the nonpartisan Common Cause North Carolina. “They have a unique understanding of how gerrymandering divides communities and stifles competition at the ballot box, robbing too many voters of any real voice in our democracy.”

While House Bill 92, the redistricting reform measure, enjoys support from a majority of N.C. House members, it has yet to be heard in the General Assembly.

See the full list of local elected officials who have signed on to the effort to end gerrymandering in North Carolina.

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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.

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Posted by on Feb 18, 2015

Only you can end gerrymandering in North Carolina

House Bill 92 (Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission) was introduced Monday night – despite cold, snow and nasty weather.

The next step is to get House members to co-sponsor (publicly put their name on) the bill.

And we need YOUR help. Please call your member in the N.C. House of Representatives TODAY and ask them to sign on to the bill. You can call 919-733-4111 and they will direct your call to the right person.

House members must sign on by 5 p.m. tomorrow, so please do it NOW.

Thank you!

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Posted by on Jan 20, 2015

No Choice, no voice at the ballot box

In the 2014 election, most North Carolinians had no real say in who would represent them in Raleigh.

By Joshua Gunn and Kaitlyn Oakley
Published: Jan. 20, 2015

It is well acknowledged that the right to vote is the basis for American democracy. One of the main reasons Americans revolted in the Revolutionary War was to fight to have the right to a truly democratic, representative government. But do we really have the right to elect a representative government when given no choice in candidates?

‪In the 2014 election, 47 percent – nearly half – of N.C. General Assembly candidates ran completely unopposed. That means the only steps these members had to take to secure their seats were to file paperwork and pay the filing fee.

Even worse, an additional 40 percent of legislative candidates ran in noncompetitive elections in which they won their race by a double-digit margin. Only 8 percent of state legislators ran in what is considered a competitive election, in which they won by 5 percentage points or less.
Just 8 percent of legislative candidates ran in truly competitive races in 2014. The other 92 percent were either unopposed or won by double-digit margins.

Often times, the factors behind state legislators running unopposed and in noncompetitive races are things like voter apathy and disinterest in local elections, but these statistics are too high to attribute solely to indifference.

‪Gerrymandering, the redrawing of voting maps in order to ensure that the political party in power stays in power, is the culprit robbing North Carolinians of their right to elect a representative legislature.

By drawing congressional and legislative districts to lump citizens that usually vote for the party in power together, gerrymandering makes some votes count more than others (or not at all).

‪When the party in power succeeds in rigging the elections in their favor, they generally will pose a more viable threat to the people because they can pass their agenda unopposed. Opposition is important to creating and sustaining a true democracy because it creates a space for compromise. Gerrymandering threatens the ability of people to elect a truly representative democracy.

‪Right now, the North Carolina Constitution allows state legislators to consider party affiliation of citizens when drawing voter districts based on census results. This obviously creates an environment that encourages gerrymandering. We need redistricting reform now; we cannot allow the continuation of noncompetitive, unfair elections in which some votes count more than others.

‪Nonpartisan groups across North Carolina have been advocating for a redistricting reform bill that would effectively make elections fairer and more competitive within the bounds of the State Constitution.

In April 2013, House Bill 606 was introduced in the legislature but ultimately died before it even reached committee. The bill would have created a nonpartisan Temporary Redistricting Advisory Committee that would draw districts based on population only. The districts would then be sent to the state legislature for approval. These districts would need to comply with all federal and state regulations as well as meet certain requirements such as equal population and fluidity of boundaries.

‪These same nonpartisan groups that supported House Bill 606 are now working to reintroduce the same standards in a new bill in the upcoming session of the General Assembly. Considering that a majority of House members on both sides of the aisle worked to co-sponsor the bill in 2013, these nonpartisan groups hope to see action taken in 2015.

Twenty-three of the newly elected General Assembly members have already openly supported independent redistricting reform. Both parties will benefit from a redistricting reform bill because it will create a less political redistricting process.

To find out how you can help advocate for redistricting reform in North Carolina visit EndGerrymanderingNow.org or contact your local representative to ask about their stance on redistricting reform. North Carolinians deserve a choice in their elections.

Joshua Gunn is a student at N.C. State University and Kaitlyn Oakley is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill. They both served as interns at Common Cause North Carolina, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to encouraging citizen participation in democracy.

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