Why does this matter?
Years of partisan gerrymandering has eroded accountability from our elected officials and diluted the power of North Carolinians’ votes, making reform more important than ever.
For decades, gerrymandering has been used by politicians to allow them to pick the voters they want to have in their district and therefore gain an advantage in elections. When a voting district is designed to favor one party over another, it becomes almost impossible for voters of the opposing party to flip the district.
When citizens come to understand that their votes are diluted because the districts are drawn to favor one party over another, they become less civically engaged.
When elections are not competitive and voting outcomes become predictable, there are no incentives for our elected officials to reach across the aisle and seek bipartisan solutions.
How did we get here?
Powerful software, advanced algorithms and vast quantities of data have made the effects of partisan gerrymandering devastating: Advanced redistricting technologies can carve out specific neighborhoods, streets, or even households so that elected officials can choose which voters he or she wants in his or her district. While the use of party registration and voting history data has been used by both parties in the map making process for decades, the advent of these advanced tools has resulted in the most extreme partisan outcomes possible.
The Existing Legal Framework
Federal redistricting laws provide some guidelines on the redistricting process but do not adequately address the issues of modern gerrymandering tactics. While federal laws also apply to the state redistricting process, every state also has its own legal framework for how the redistricting process is done.
Based on Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, legislative representation must be proportional to population and each person’s vote must be equal to another, i.e. “one person, one vote.”
Voting districts may not discriminate or favor on the basis of race or ethnicity as outlined in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
U.S. Supreme Court
While previously ruling on racial gerrymandering cases from North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court has only very recently agreed to hear cases on partisan gerrymandering. Regardless of how the courts rule on these cases, true redistricting reform cannot be achieved through court decisions alone. Verdicts only establish minimum standards or rough guidelines that are subject to interpretation by the North Carolina General Assembly and only challengeable through continued, lengthy, costly litigation.
Common Cause & NC League of Women Voters v. Rucho was a case brought to challenge North Carolina’s remedial Congressional voting district map (adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2016 after the previous voting district map was struck down by the United States Supreme Court) under the theory that the voting district map constitutes an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander in violation of the United States Constitution (specifically, the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause and Article I, Sections 2 and 4). On June 27, 2019, the United States Supreme Court held that partisan gerrymandering claims are non-justiciable.
North Carolina Superior Court
Common Cause v. Lewis filed in North Carolina Superior Court, challenges North Carolina’s current state legislative districts (that were redrawn in 2016 along with Congressional districts) as partisan gerrymanders in violation of the North Carolina State Constitution. This case was heard by a three-judge panel in July of 2019 and a decision by the panel is anticipated sometime in the Fall of 2019. The case will go directly to the North Carolina Supreme Court to be heard if the decision reached by the three-judge panel is appealed.
What can we do?
We can adopt a state constitutional amendment requiring clear, nonpartisan standards for redistricting starting in 2020. The primary proposed changes contained within NC4RR’s constitutional amendment are designed to implement a clear, nonpartisan framework for redistricting in North Carolina that holds elected representatives accountable to the constituents who elected them. The primary elements of the proposed amendment are:
North Carolinians should be informed throughout the voting district-drawing process – methodology and data should be public and transparent, so everyone understands how and why their voting district has been drawn a certain way. Voting districts are only redrawn once every 10 years so it’s important everyone understands how it’s done.
No Partisan Data
Voting districts should be drawn without the use of partisan data such as party affiliation, voting history, residence of the incumbent or any other data that could identify with reasonable certainty the voting tendencies of any group of citizens.
Sensibly Drawn Districts
Congressional and state legislative districts should be contiguous, compact and respect established county and natural geographic lines where possible – districts should represent communities as they see themselves.
How can I help?
Passing bipartisan redistricting reform in North Carolina will require vocal public support from passionate citizens like you. Talk to your friends about the need for redistricting reform and consider contributing to our cause by making a donation.