Editorial: Lack of competitive districts hurts representative, responsive legislature

Posted April 12, 2016
Updated July 7, 2016

Gerrymandering means legislators who voted for HB2 don't have to worry about facing voter reaction.

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A CBC Editorial: April 7, 2016; Editorial# 8013
The following editorial is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

No matter where North Carolinians may be on the political spectrum, they all should be concerned about the vote during the special legislative session that produced the now notorious House Bill 2.

A critical element of a representative democracy is that elected representatives are accountable to their constituents at the ballot box. Voters who like what their legislators do can go to the polls in November and express their approval. Likewise, voters who are unhappy can express themselves by voting for someone else.

That's the theory anyway. But that isn't how it works in North Carolina.

Nearly half the legislators who voted for HB2, were either unopposed in the fall election or are not seeking re-election -- half of the House of Representatives and 46 percent of the Senate. Another 40 percent, according to Common Cause North Carolina, won their last election by double-digit margins. In the state House of Representatives, three of the bill's four sponsors were either unopposed or not seeking re-election.

In the state Senate, the primary backer of the bill was Republican Buck Newton from Wilson County who isn't seeking re-election to his seat, but is running statewide for attorney general. The Senate's GOP leadership gave Newton a highly visible role -- providing some major exposure and material for fall campaign propaganda.

When 81 percent of voting legislators can favor a bill that, according to recent statewide survey North Carolinians are evenly divided on, is not a reflection of the representative government that builds trust or comes close to expressing the will of the people.

Here is a list of the unopposed and retiring legislators, who voted for HB2:

HOUSE DEMOCRATS (9): Larry Bell, William Brinson, Elmer Floyd, Charles Graham, George Graham, Ken Goodman, Howard Hunter III, Garland Pierce, Michael Wray.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS (29): Jay Adams, Dan Bishop, John Blust, James Boles, Rick Catlin, George Cleveland, Leo Daughtry, Ted Davis, Jimmy Dixon, Josh Dobson, John Faircloth, Carl Ford, John Fraley, Mike Hager, Kelly Hastings, Craig Horn, Julia Howard, Donny Lambeth, James Langdon, George Robinson, Jason Saine, Jacqueline Schaffer, Mitchell Setzer, Paul Stam, Harry Warren, Sam Watford, Roger West, Chris Whitmire, Lee Zachary.

SENATE REPUBLICANS (16): Tom Apodaca, Brent Jackson, Phil Berger, Stan Bingham, Andrew Brock, Harry Brown, David Curtis, Kathy Harrington, Fletcher Hartsell, Joyce Krawiec, Buck Newton, Louis Pate, Bill Rabon, Jerry Tillman, Tommy Tucker, Andy Wells.