Editorial: New redistricting effort aims to repeat old mistakes
Posted July 28, 2017 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated July 28, 2017 6:10 a.m. EDT
CBC Editorial: Friday, July 28, 2017; Editorial # 8192
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
The iron-fisted leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly quickly snapped the last frayed thread of hope that there might be a sincere effort to develop fair and legal legislative districts.
At Wednesday’s joint meeting of the legislature’s redistricting committees, among the first revelations is that taxpayers will be paying the architect of the state’s current illegal redistricting maps to create the new ones. Tom Hofeller isn’t a household name though his handiwork as nation’s top Republican redistricting map-maker, has cost the state millions defending the unconstitutional legislative and congressional districts he concocted.
When asked if Democrats in the legislature will have access to Hofeller’s expertise and work – after all we’re all paying for it – House redistricting boss Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, was precise. “The short answer is no.”
So, North Carolinians won’t be able to see and evaluate what a guy, whose work is already certifiably questionable, is dreaming up nor will they be able to make independent assessments of the process.
So much for fairness, transparency and accountability.
North Carolina’s legislative and congressional district maps have been declared unconstitutional. The out-of-touch leadership and radical majority that has controlled the legislature since 2011 has amassed a nearly unmatched record of laws that were struck down by state and federal courts. That doesn’t even include the stacks of wrong-headed legislation – most notoriously House Bill 2.
It’s time to stop.
Stop the political games and make a sincere effort to develop legislative districts that provide North Carolinians fair representation. There’s no magic to this and here’s the formula:
Talk to North Carolinians about what they think and want. Unlike in 2011, maybe listen to what they have to say. Imagine that!
Hearings should be numerous, held within a compact time period, at time when the most people can participate and easily accessible to as many North Carolinians as possible –requiring no more than a 1-hour drive to a site.
Next, agree on some common-sense ground rules. The joint committee needs to agree upon basic criteria for the composition of the districts. They should be:
- Compact -- coinciding with the boundaries of political subdivisions of the state.
- Contiguous -- districts joined only at the corners are NOT contiguous.
- Follow state and federal law -- adhering to the Voting Rights Act and state constitutional mandates -- avoid splitting counties.
- Ignore -- voter registration, voter turnout, results of past elections and residence of incumbents or challengers.
After witnessing Wednesday’s committee meeting, the leader of N.C. Common Cause who is in the forefront of an effort to develop a nonpartisan-based process for redistricting, wasn’t holding out much hope for a decent plan.
"Cynically, you could say they've already got the maps drawn, and this is all a charade," Bob Phillips said.
Tragically, Phillips’ dark assessment may even be optimistic. If the process remains on its current track, the only winners will be the lawyers who will battle over the next set of bad districts in court.
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