Editorial: Ruling won’t solve problem

  • Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 12:30 a.m.

A three-judge panel says the legislature’s 2011 redistricting plan is legal, but that doesn’t mean the plan is fair or wise. The partisan slicing and dicing of congressional and legislative districts undermines the political process, diminishes voter confidence and harms citizen involvement.

For example, can you name your representative in Congress? The 2011 plan divided Rowan among three congressional districts, confusing voters and marginalizing whatever clout the county might have had. (Clue: Your representative is either Richard Hudson, Virginia Foxx or Mel Watt.) State House and Senate districts are equally manipulative.

The Superior Court judges found no evidence the new lines impaired citizens’ rights. But the ruling hardly quells the growing sense that North Carolina’s redistricting process is flawed. State law allows the party in power to realign districts to its own advantage. For years, Democrats drew districts that favored their party, and Republicans cried foul. But once Republicans gained power, they did the same self-interested thing. Now that both parties have proved themselves prone to computer-assisted gerrymandering, it’s clear that neither is able or willing to put partisanship aside to draw up a fair and equitable plan.

This builds an even stronger case for House Bill 606, a redistricting reform plan that has true bipartisan support from 61 members of the N.C. House, including Rep. Harry Warren of Rowan. It would assign the job of redistricting to a bipartisan commission directed to base its work on voter numbers without regard to party affiliation or past elections. The General Assembly would still have final approval, but it would be an up-or-down vote; lawmakers would be allowed to make only technical changes.

The bill has not moved since it was sent to the House Elections Committee in early April. A similar bill that stalled in 2011 not only drew bipartisan support, it drew endorsements from John Hood and Chris Fitzsimon, state political pundits usually on opposite sides. (The John Locke Foundation’s Locker Room website posted this headline: “Hood, Fitzsimon agree on redistricting reform — next, cats and dogs will live in peace.”)

As it’s trending now, the 2013 legislative session seems unlikely to further the cause of peace between Republicans and Democrats, much less dogs and cats. But bipartisan support of this bill shows that, on redistricting at least, the parties are not so far apart.

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