More than half of the House backs redistricting changes
Posted April 17, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — More than half of the sitting members of the state House have co-sponsored a measure that would put the job of redrawing legislative and congressional districts into the hands of nonpartisan professional staff.
The bill is modeled on a process used in Iowa and is designed to remove at least some of the partisan bickering. District lines drawn by lawmakers in 2011 are still making their way through a lengthy, complex and costly legal battle.
"This is about the voters; it shouldn't be about the politicians," said Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Wake.
One of the long-standing arguments for reform is that the current process allows politicians to pick and choose their electorate, assuring that incumbents stay in office and a vast majority of the seats in the legislature are "safe" districts for either Republicans or Democrats.
Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, R-Wake, is one of the primary sponsors of the measure and has been putting forward similar legislation since 1989.
"One of the principles of justice is that no person should be judge in his own cause," Stam said.
Legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years after the U.S. Census measures the state's population. Republicans were in charge of that process for the first time in more than century two years ago, and some may be loathe to surrender the power.
"If it was something we were supportive of before, just because we're now in the majority, we shouldn't be switching our position," said Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson. "If it was good government then, it's good government now."
A similar bill passed the 120-member House two years ago with 88 votes. Stam said he is certain the measure will clear the House again, but its fate is uncertain in the state Senate.