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Redistricting reform unlikely this year

Posted May 29, 2012

Despite a bipartisan push by advocates and House lawmakers, a proposal to reform the state's redistricting process looks unlikely to move forward.

At a press conference this morning, former NCGOP chairman Bill Cobey joined liberal UNC Law professor Gene Nichol to call on Senate leaders to consider the measure, House Bill 824. 

The bill passed the House last year with strong support from the leaders of both parties, but since then it's languished in Senate Rules.  

Cobey talked about his involvement in Stevenson v. Bartlett, one of North Carolina's best-known redistricting lawsuits, which ended up in the US Supreme Court. 

"This process was highly partisan and frankly totally unnecessary," Cobey said. "There has got to be a better way." 

Nichol said North Carolina has become the "poster child" for partisan redistricting in the eyes of the courts, which have intervened more than 20 times in the past 30 years. "For the US Supreme Court," he said, "the 1990s were the North Carolina decade."

News conference: Redistricting Group pushes to get politics out of redistricting

Pointing out that both parties have abused their power in drawing maps, Nichol urged Senate leaders to bring H824 forward and pass it this summer. 

Senate Leader Phil Berger said that's unlikely to happen. 

When they were in the minority, Berger actually sponsored redistricting reform bills, as did Senate Rules chair Tom Apodaca and Senate Judiciary chair Pete Brunstetter. 

But now, he says, he's in no particular hurry to get back to the issue.

"We just finished redistricting last year," Berger told reporters this morning. "We're in the process of those maps being addressed in ongoing litigation. I don't know that this year is the year for us to address that issue."

When asked what would be the right time, Berger reiterated, "Not this year."

"I think the timing for having those kinds of discussions would be at a time when we're not engaged in litigation on that issue. If we want to talk about it, it probably would be better to do it at a time when you don't have court decisions that are out there," he added. 

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