By a wide margin, North Carolina voters say they want to replace their state’s current system of political gerrymandering with a non-partisan redistricting option, according to a new poll. This survey comes days after former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker (D) and former Charlotte Mayor and gubernatorial nominee Richard Vinroot (R) announced a bipartisan push for a fair redistricting process in their state.
The poll by the North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling found that among those familiar with the idea, 45 percent of registered North Carolina voters support nonpartisan redistricting, while just 18 percent oppose it. The concept enjoys support among Democrats (48 percent to 14), Republicans (37 to 25), and independents (49 to 17).
North Carolina is the epitome of a “purple state,” with a closely divided populace. In 2008, President Barack Obama carried the state with 49.7 percent of the vote, in 2012 Mitt Romney won it with 50.39 percent, and the state currently has one Democratic U.S. Senator and one Republican.
But despite this close division, after the 2010 census the state’s Republican-controlled legislature designed maps to ensure massive over-representation of Republicans and under-representation of Democrats. In the 2012 Congressional elections, 2,218,357 North Carolinians voted for a Democratic Congressional nominee and 2,137,167 voted for a Republican nominee.
But thanks to the GOP gerrymander, 9 of North Carolina’s 13 (more than 69 percent) U.S. House districts went to Republicans and just 4 to Democrats (and one of those Democratic districts will be unrepresented this year due to Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) controversial decision not to hold a special election until November to fill a January vacancy).
A fairer map would likely have resulted in a Congressional delegation that more closely represented the state’s population and more accurately reflected the voters’ will. It also would have allowed voters more of an opportunity to select their future state legislators, rather than the current system in which the majority party’s legislators select their future constituents.
While gerrymandering in North Carolina is particularly egregious, it is a national problem. More Americans voted for a Democratic U.S. Representative in the last election than a Republican, yet the Republicans won a more-than-30-seat majority. Under the current maps, Democrats might need to win the popular vote by more than 7 percent just to regain a majority in the House of Representatives — and Ed Gillespie’s Republican State Legislative Committee even admitted last year that the GOP won its current House majority through that redistricting process.
Partisan gerrymandering also has frequently been used by Democrats to dilute the power of Republican voters. An analysis by FairVote.org found that in last year’s New Jersey legislative elections, Democrats won 60 percent of the Assembly seats even though Republican candidates garnered upwards of 100,000 votes more than Democratic candidates.