The effort to end gerrymandering in NC just had a huge week

By Bryan Warner
Posted: Mar. 7, 2017

RALEIGH – This month marks 205 years since the term "gerrymandering" was first coined. But as the past week in North Carolina shows, momentum is swiftly growing to finally end the practice of partisan politicians manipulating voting maps to unfairly favor their own party.

TUESDAY: Bipartisan plan to end gerrymandering is introduced in the NC Legislature

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers introduced House Bill 200, which would take politics out of the redistricting process. Instead of legislators drawing their own districts for partisan advantage, a nonpartisan legislative staff would create congressional and legislative maps completely blind of any political consideration.

A similar plan has been introduced and stalled in previous years. So, what's different about this time?

A big difference – and one that could give reform supporters real hope for progress – is that this bill is led by four Republicans: Reps. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford), Jonathan Jordan (R-Ashe, Watauga), Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) and Sarah Stevens (R-Surry, Wilkes).

Stevens is the House speaker pro tempore and Hardister is the majority whip, two important leadership positions that could help move the proposal along.

WEDNESDAY: Hundreds come to Raleigh for the Citizens Lobby Day to End Gerrymandering

In what might be the largest ever single-day effort to end gerrymandering in North Carolina history, hundreds of citizens from across the state came to the NC Legislature on Wednesday for the Citizens Lobby Day to End Gerrymandering. Their goal: to directly tell lawmakers to enact independent redistricting.

This was a sincere, thoughtful and powerful outpouring of grassroots support for independent redistricting and a clear sign that people from all walks of life and every corner of the state want fairly drawn voting maps. The overwhelming manifestation of public support shows that the movement to end gerrymandering isn't going away.

THURSDAY: Duke University & Common Cause host national conference on gerrymandering

Just 20 miles away from the NC Legislative Building, Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy teamed with Common Cause and the Campaign Legal Center to convene the "Mapping Our Future" conference with redistricting experts from across the nation.

Time and again at the conference, North Carolina was held up as an example of one of the most egregious gerrymandering offenders in the country. But the conference also provided a hopeful pathway to reform by explaining how other states have successfully moved beyond gerrymandering and enacted nonpartisan redistricting. If fair redistricting can work in places like California or Iowa, it can work in North Carolina.

FRIDAY: Court rules that lawsuits against partisan gerrymandering in NC will move forward

A big week for redistricting in North Carolina had perhaps the biggest news happen on Friday, when a panel of federal judges ruled that lawsuits filed by Common Cause and the League of Women Voters challenging partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina will move ahead with a summer trial.

The cases could be pivotal in the fight against gerrymandering, because while the courts have been fairly clear in ruling against racial gerrymandering, they have been far less clear when it comes to partisan gerrymandering. These lawsuits could be the landmark cases that finally ban partisan gerrymandering in our state and nation.

NEXT UP: The key is to keep the momentum going

One big week in the effort to end gerrymandering is not enough to solve the problem. But it's a positive sign that citizens, lawmakers and the courts are awakened to the fact that partisan manipulation of voting maps is a real threat to our democracy.

Now comes the important part: maintaining and building the momentum. Click here for five things you can do now to help North Carolina establish fair voting maps and fair elections.

The kind of bipartisan "people power" on display last week is what it's going to take to end gerrymandering once and for all.


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