Pay attention to the man behind the curtain, Dorothy. North Carolina state legislators have kicked off the legislative and congressional redistricting process that decides how skewed our representation is every ten years (though more frequently in North Carolina). Will legislators finally let voters choose their representatives instead of the other way around? The prognosis so far isn’t good.
Mandated by the U.S. Constitution to take place after each decennial census, these once-a-decade drawings of maps decide who represents who in the state legislature and U.S. House. District lines are supposed to protect the “one person, one vote” principle. But they’ve always been subject to abuse by gerrymandering — the process of creating twisted lines on the map to give a disproportionate number of seats to a particular political party or race. In recent years, however, sophisticated computer analysis of voter data has changed the old political art of gerrymandering into an abusively scientific process of concentrating political power in the hands of whichever group holds a current majority of legislators. The resulting maps can guarantee years of anti-democratic rule by a party which in truth represents only a minority of voters.
That’s why having a fair process and rules for redistricting is so important. Environmental and voting rights advocates have fought for years for an independent commission and strict nonpartisan standards for drawing these maps. Unfortunately, the current state legislative majority has made plain that such a fair process is off the table.
What is left now is to press for the most publicly transparent process that can be achieved for the procedure by which the state legislators themselves draw their own districts. The rules under discussion now may limit the worst abuses, or at least provide courts with a better chance to look inside the process when considering inevitable legal challenges to the maps’ constitutionality. Such litigation has given our state new maps almost every election in recent years. If legislators would do the process right from the start, taxpayers would save a ton of money, and policy outcomes would reflect voters’ wishes more than politicians’ big donors’.
If Congress passes the federal For the People Act (HR 1 / S1), it would protect our democracy and curtail state legislators’ ability to gerrymander across the country. Tell your senators to support this bill!