Editorial: Best reply to courts on redistricting: Create nonpartisan commission

Posted August 19, 2016

A CBC Editorial: Friday, Aug. 19, 2016; Editorial# 8044
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

When it comes elections, most everyone agrees the more people to the polls the better; and voters should pick their representatives, not the other way around.

It’s not, however, the prevailing practice among North Carolina’s legislative leaders. Election law generally, and congressional and legislative maps specifically, have been concocted by a very few legislators and thrust on the rest of us.  That is wrong and legislative leaders are now paying the price in court for the heavy-handed arrogance.

It is not about letting politicians be politicians. It’s reached the point in North Carolina that the government watchdog group Common Cause filed a federal lawsuit saying the hyper-partisan N.C. redistricting is unconstitutional.

Judges up and down the federal court system have ruled that laws and representative districts cooked up by the General Assembly deny access to the polls and a voice in selecting their representatives on U.S. Congress and the N.C. General Assembly.

With about 11 weeks to Election Day, North Carolinians will be headed to the polls with a lot at stake and too much up in the air. Choices on the ballot alone – President, U.S. Senate, Governor, Council of State, and offices from the legislature to the county courthouse – are critical.

Actions by the current legislature depress voter turnout. Engineering district upon district where candidates of one party are virtually guaranteed election diminishes participation.  The situation is so lopsided that 41 percent of the General Assembly’s 170 seats are unopposed.  For all but a handful of the rest, there is token opposition.  Candidates don’t need to make a case with voters to elect them.  On the flipside, what enticement is there to vote when there is no choice?

Common Cause, through its gerrymandering lawsuit, doesn’t just want the current redistricting maps fixed, it wants the whole process changed. “Instead of politicians drawing their own voting maps, redistricting should be entrusted to a nonpartisan body that can ensure congressional and legislative districts reflect our state’s population.” Executive Director Bob Phillips said.

Establishing a nonpartisan commission to develop districts, where more goes into the consideration than a guaranteed win for a specific political party, will assure all areas of the state get representation. It’s already working in Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana and Washington – a collection of blue and red states.

Fairly drawn districts will be more competitive. Legislative and congressional candidates would need to address a broad range of issues, campaign more actively and appeal to voters more directly.  Conversely, voters would be more engaged and hold their elected officials more accountable.

Think about it again. The most fundamental foundations of democracy in North Carolina – the right to vote, the right to be fairly represented and to hold elected officials accountable – are under assault and tied up in legal challenges.

Hyper-partisan representation breeds political polarization, obliterating opportunities for sincere dialogue, cooperation and consensus in the legislative process. Fairly drawn districts would demand candidates speak to a broad range of citizens and cover a variety of issues and bridge differences to win both primaries and on Election Day.

The General Assembly shouldn’t wait until it loses another federal court case. It should start now to explore establishing a redistricting commission.  And, when the General Assembly convenes in January, it should be ready to debate and create the commission tasked to determine fair representation in the U.S. House of Representatives and the N.C. General Assembly.

Don’t forget, register and vote.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Richard Bunce Aug 20, 8:53 a.m.
    user avatar

    There is no such thing as a non partisan commission. Only solution is an open source algorithm that uses no demographic data except residence address by Census Block... http://bdistricting.com/2010/NC_Congress/

  • Skip Harris Aug 19, 4:30 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    By your own statement an editor writes articles. Seth Effron is the editor, therefore, by your own logic, it must be an article. Regardless, as fun as parsing these words might be it is a distraction from the bigger point that WRAL provides no diversity of opinion, only it's own. If it were a true opinion page it would provide an avenue for people with different opinions to articulate a variety of arguments thereby giving WRAL readership the chance to evaluate issues from different perspectives. It does not.

  • Aiden Audric Aug 19, 3:51 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    We have a business analyst in our IT department who got a degree in accounting and was an accountant before taking the IT job.
    Taking a new position means taking a different role.

  • Paul Hayeze Aug 19, 2:44 p.m.
    user avatar

    Paul Stam sure is negative about CBC...He should just stick to faux news with the rest of the tin foil hat population....

  • Skip Harris Aug 19, 2:40 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Article noun : a nonfictional prose composition usually forming an independent part of a publication.

    In the introduction of the WRAL Opinion page it describes the hiring of "journalist" Seth Effron to be the editor of the Opinion Page. Therefore this editorial, which is also an article, was written by a journalist and editor.

    One must be careful when one writes like this

  • Aiden Audric Aug 19, 2:19 p.m.
    user avatar

    "cbc Opinion"
    "A CBC Editorial: Friday, Aug. 19, 2016; Editorial# 8044
    The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company"

    It's not an article. It's an editorial.

    Editorials are written by the editorial staff, articles are written by reporters and editors.

    Once one knows the distinction, one knows this is not journalism: it's the cbc's position on a topic. Although some may disagree, it's a simple search away to confirm this.

  • Will Sonnett Aug 19, 1:38 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Non-partisan is a word used by partisan politicians to complain when things don't go their way. I agree that we spend far too much time and money defending baseless lawsuits that are politically motivated and timed to achieve their goal by appealing to a compliant judge at the last moment. Like it or not, the reality is that these issues are all about politics and, as the old saying goes, "depend on whose ox is being gored". I believe that 100 counties, 100 districts would be an equitable solution but, as always there are those who would cry foul because their power base would be dismantled. It's a shame that this is how our elected officials and their proxies have chosen to manipulate the system for their own benefit - fairness, the will of and what's best for the people is not a consideration. BTW - I have been a registered independent for over forty years, I vote for the person and policies, never the party.

  • Glenda Hightower Aug 19, 12:26 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I appreciate your opinion, Will, but to people like me, yes, a democrat, non-partisan means just that. Care would have to be taken that it was non-partisan, but it's doable. It can be achieved if ordinary republicans (presuming here) like yourself and an ordinary democrat like me push for it to happen. It will work towards the betterment of our state and hopefully stop wasteful spending on lawsuits.

  • Skip Harris Aug 19, 11:54 a.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    It is a good idea, the problem is that someone has to write the code and the algorithm that would perform the assignments. Several types of this software exist but the last I read on it there were issues with how to account for all of the different variables that have to be accounted for - though those issues may have been resolved by now. On a bigger picture level I don't think that there is much argument against removing this from the aegis of the legislature. Both parties have used it in silly ways to benefit themselves.

  • Raleigh Rose Aug 19, 11:38 a.m.
    user avatar

    I do not possess the computer know-how to do this, but what about a program to decide voter districts? Something that takes the total state demographics into account to ensure that each district accurately reflects the population so that all votes are counted equally and no one group's votes count more or less due to gerrymandering? A system is needed to ensure that it is the voice of the people that is important and that they are all heard equally, not that one particular party is heard above the other.