North Carolina needs to redraw its district map. In May, the Supreme Court ruled the current map unconstitutional, and just last week, Gov. Roy Cooper called on the legislature to start the process of creating a new one. But a bipartisan bill has been gathering dust since February that would force the state’s Republican majority to relinquish control and let an independent commission draw new districts. Though the bill has been largely ignored, North Carolina’s citizens are demanding legislators pay attention.
You’re watching an episode of “In Session,” a weekly series exploring interesting policy changes on the state level.
PHOEBE GAVIN, ThinkProgress: North Carolina has been in the headlines quite a bit recently.
WRAL: North Carolina’s congressional redistricting case is in the spotlight.
WSOC-9: A major decision by the nation’s highest court.
GAVIN: The Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina’s districts were unlawfully drawn to dilute the influence of black votes.
GOV. ROY COOPER, North Carolina: Delay only thwarts justice.
GAVIN: And Governor Roy Cooper has asked lawmakers to redraw the map. But what a lot of people don’t know is that a bill was introduced back in February that would create an independent commission to do just that — And the bill is going nowhere.
HB 200 creates standards for redistricting that would eliminate partisan influence, in part by creating an commission that excludes anyone who holds public office and their relatives. The bill specifies a district’s ideal shape and population size, but most importantly, it explicitly forbids manipulating district lines to secure party control.
Right now NC voters are pretty even along party lines, but Republicans have a supermajority in both the state house and senate. This bill would help North Carolina better reflect its citizenry. Its primary sponsors are Republicans, and it’s received bipartisan support.
REP CHUCK MCGRADY (R-NC117): We have to serve the people of North Carolina and make sure they have full confidence in the integrity and fairness of our elections.
REP. GRIER MARTIN (D-NC34): It is so rewarding to me to be part of a bipartisan group of North Carolina legislators who want to be part of crafting a bipartisan solution.
GAVIN: And North Carolina’s citizens agree: 59 percent of voters are in favor of nonpartisan redistricting. Only 15 percent are opposed. Despite this support, the bill has yet to make it out of committee, and that might not be an accident. The committee is chaired by Rep. David Lewis (R), who also chaired the 2011 committee that drew the very maps that the courts just ruled unconstitutional.
The bill has been gathering dust for three months, prompting North Carolinians to hold “The People’s Hearing on HB 200.”
CITIZEN 1: At stake is the very heart of our democracy, the rights of citizens to have their voices heard through the ballot box.
CITIZEN 2: We have the right to vote and we have the right to be counted in the election and counted equally. It’s time for this to stop.
CITIZEN 3: Listen to your constituents.
GAVIN: And still, crickets from the committee…
But the fact is, the map need to be redrawn. When, how, and by whom is still to be determined.