Opinion

Editorial: Voters lose, gerrymandering wins. It needs to stop

Posted November 9, 2018
Updated January 22, 2019

CBC Editorial: Friday, Nov. 9, 2018; Editorial #8360
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company


Imagine buying seven apples and six oranges at the grocery store only to get home and discover the store decided you should have 10 apples and just three oranges.

That’s exactly what is happening to voters in North Carolina. Tuesday 49.7 percent of the state’s voters picked Democrats to send to the U.S. House of Representatives. But only three Democrats (23 percent) actually were elected.

It gets worse. Fifty-one percent of the voters picked Democrats to serve in the state Senate. How many won? Just 42 percent. So Republicans will hold 29 of 50 Senate seats. The same thing happened in the state House of Representatives. Republicans will hold 66 of the 120 seats even though 51 percent of the voters picked Democrats.

How can a majority of voters cast their ballots one way only to see the result be the opposite?

We know too well the answer. Gerrymandering. Rigging elections to subvert the will of the people so those in power keep power.

It is past time to heed court rulings and for this to end.

“The blue tide did not breach the gerrymandered sea wall that exists because of the broken redistricting process we have in North Carolina,” Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC, said after the election. “That was what we were watching for. We were waiting to see, does anything change? Gerrymandering does provide a protective sea wall.”

Phony rationalizing that Democrats competed in several close races in this election and captured a few more seats, misses the point. What Republicans know – and the evidence shows in the results of this most recent election – is that even when the party put up flawed and lack-luster candidates, the districts are so rigged it is all-but impossible to lose.

The unfairness of this all isn’t just to Democrats. Partisan dominance comes and goes – as Republicans well know.

The unfairness is to voters who expressed their will but see it subverted and ignored by those who are supposed to serve them. The result is an out-of-control legislative majority and leadership with a radical agenda that’s out of step with citizens’ views and desires. The evidence is overwhelming – highlighted by policy blunders like House Bill 2 and the two power-grab state Constitutional amendments voters just overwhelmingly rejected.

This is not a surprise. The courts have repeatedly ruled, since the districts were redrawn in 2012, that they are illegal – both because of racial discrimination and excessive partisanship.

North Carolina has suffered too long under laws passed by an illegally constituted legislature. North Carolina taxpayers have wasted millions in legal fees defending the indefensible.

Sixty-nine current and newly-elected legislators (44 Democrats and six Republicans in the state House and 19 Democratic state senators) have signed Common Cause’s “Fair Maps Pledge.” In addition, eight Republicans were among the sponsors of a bill, that was never heard, to establish a nonpartisan redistricting commission.

When legislators convene later this month, rather than looking to weaken Gov. Roy Cooper and further shore up their diminished authority, legislative leaders should openly discuss and have the General Assembly adopt an independent, nonpartisan process for congressional and legislative redistricting.

Get the job done. Make North Carolina elections fair again.