The North Carolina Influencer Series

NC Influencers weigh in on gerrymandering, political polarization

People protest gerrymandering outside the Supreme Court while the justices hear oral arguments on Oct. 3 in Washington, D.C. Using an online tool called Your Voice, we asked readers across North Carolina what issues mattered most to them this election year. Political polarization and gerrymandering were among the top five.
People protest gerrymandering outside the Supreme Court while the justices hear oral arguments on Oct. 3 in Washington, D.C. Using an online tool called Your Voice, we asked readers across North Carolina what issues mattered most to them this election year. Political polarization and gerrymandering were among the top five. The Washington Post

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The North Carolina Influencer series

The Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun in Durham are launching a conversation between readers and important thought leaders throughout North Carolina.

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Using an online tool called Your Voice, we asked readers across North Carolina what issues mattered most to them this election year. Political polarization and gerrymandering were among the top five.

Then we asked them what questions they had for NC leaders about polarization. Here is the question an overwhelming majority of them wanted us to pose to the 60 NC Influencers: “Gerrymandering heightens polarization in North Carolina. What should North Carolina leaders do to create nonpartisan electoral maps?”

Here are some of the Influencer’s answers:

Ric Elias - Red Ventures CEO

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Ric Elias

“Historically, the party in power when the census is taken redraws the electoral map to its political benefit. This is not only a GOP issue - both sides of the aisle have played a role in preventing every person in the state from being equally represented. This is a shameful, self-inflicted issue that must stop. We should learn from other states who have worked to solve this problem and engage an impartial third party to redraw the electoral maps fairly.”

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Virginia Hardy - ECU Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs

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Dr. Virginia Hardy

“Lawmakers should get out of the redistricting business and allow an independent bipartisan group to make those decisions. Those decisions should be based on fairness and facts, including federal criteria, and not predicated on a desire to give one party an advantage over another.”

Catherine Lawson - Attorney, Parker Poe in Raleigh; Started #meAt14

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Catherine Lawson

“North Carolina’s long and bipartisan history of gerrymandering has cheated voters out of competitive elections and shielded politicians from accountability. Creating district maps should be entrusted to a bipartisan entity that is independent from both the legislative and executive branches of government. No party deserves a structural advantage. Either win on the merits or don’t play the game.”

Bob Morgan - CEO Charlotte Chamber

“Gerrymandering is about as American as apple pie and it is not the issue in my opinion. Voter participation is the answer. Elections matter.”

Patricia Timmons-Goodson - Justice (Ret.) N.C. Supreme Court; Vice Chair U.S. Civil Rights Commission

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Patricia Timmons-Goodson

“Leaders should support the establishment of a nonpartisan commission to draw electoral maps. The commission would have the interest of all North Carolinians and fair elections at heart, not the goal of strengthening either political party.”

Patrick Woodie - CEO NC Rural Center

“State leaders must use a bi-partisan commission to avoid the creation of gerrymandered districts. In 2016, former UNC System President and current Duke Policy Fellow Tom Ross convened a nonpartisan group of former judges to explore what equitable and fair congressional redistricting might look like in North Carolina. The group, which included well-respected legal minds like former NC Supreme Court Justice Rhoda Billings, designed an electoral map that adhered to the guidelines of the Voting Rights Act, and created geographically logical and demographically proportional congressional districts. All without factoring in any political data. Redistricting can be done in a way that is fair and healthy for our democracy, but we must have the will to do it and we must hold our elected officials accountable to see that it gets done.”

Mike Easley - Governor, 2001-2009

“The answer is simple. There should be a nonpartisan apparatus drawing districts. Both parties always try to stack the deck. The problem is getting the partisans to give up control. Otherwise we will have to just section off the state into 13 equal population blocks without regard to party registration. And that could violate the Voting Rights Act.”

Jim Martin - Governor, 1985-1993

“I favor a constitutional amendment creating an independent commission. Their draft amendment would go to the General Assembly for an up-or-down vote, and if enacted, would be submitted to the voters in a referendum in the 2020 general election. If ratified by the electorate, it would take effect after the 2022 elections, thus allowing Republicans a second chance at what was done to them for nine decades under Democrat Rule.”

Bev Perdue, Governor, 2009-2013

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Bev Perdue

“NC’s General Assembly or the courts must mandate the creation of an independent elections commission to end gerrymandering. I do not believe this will happen in the current environment.”

Pat McCrory - Governor, 2013-2017

“Politics will always determine political maps, but more transparency of system by Democrats and Republicans should be in public domain - not just at (the) state level, but also (the) local political level for city and county races.”

Richard Sneed - Principal Chief, Eastern Band of the Cherokee

“Create a process for redistricting that must be approved by an independent third party and once approved passed by a two-thirds majority of the NC House and Senate.”

Madison Shook - GOP fundraiser

“There is no such thing as a nonpartisan redistricting committee and there never will be, no matter the party in charge.”

Jay Everette - Wells Fargo senior VP and community affairs manager

“Leaders need to treat districts as regions defined by logical geographic boundaries versus considering factors like registered voter party affiliation, race or income.”

Richard Vinroot - law partner, Charlotte mayor 1991-1995

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Richard Vinroot

“As a consequence (of gerrymandering) most elections are resolved in primaries, not in the general elections, and often at the end of the filing periods without the need for primaries or elections. I’d prefer an Iowa-like nonpartisan nominating process. In North Carolina the Democrats did it to Republicans for about 100 years, and since 2010 we Republicans have been giving the Dems some of the same treatment - and true “democracy” has suffered throughout.”

Hugh McColl - Retired Bank of America CEO

“As cleanly as possible (we) should create districts that are contained in counties and adjacent areas without regard to who the voters are. Nice square or oblong districts.”

Ashley Christensen - Chef, restaurateur, food activist, philanthropist

“Solving the gerrymandering issue is undoubtedly complicated, but a start might be to redraw districts to be more competitive, as measured by a rubric like the Cook Political Report Partisan Voter Index.”

Sharon Decker - COO Tryon Equestrian Partners

“I am not sure of the specifics of steps that need to take place in redistricting but I do feel it needs to be done with as little partisan influence as possible. Perhaps the first step would be for our legislature to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot that requires a non partisan process for drawing election districts.”

Kit Cramer - CEO Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

“While I’d like to think elected leaders could appoint an independent commission to draw lines, it would be difficult to find people with no political ax to grind. Perhaps we need to use computer algorithms to add an element of neutrality.

Walter Dalton - President, Isothermal Community College

“This is very difficult to accomplish since whatever process is developed will have a political component. With that said, an independent commission or consultant would be an improvement. The devil will be in the details on how the commission is appointed and whether it can and will be truly independent or whether it will be a lap dog for political interests.”

Paul Valone - President, Grass Roots North Carolina

“For the many decades during which “Blues” used gerrymandering to control an essentially “Red” state, it was never a topic for debate. Now that Republicans are drawing the districts, however, we are told it is somehow reprehensible. Pardon my cynicism, but the U.S. Supreme Court has let majority parties nationwide continue to draw districts and, as they say, “elections have consequences.”

How to participate

Your Voice is an ongoing conversation between you and the NC Influencers and policy makers in our state. Over the next six months we’ll ask you what matters most to you about a particular issue. After you’ve weighed in online, we’ll hold a Your Voice vote to see which reader’s response resonates most. Then, we’ll put that question to the NC Influencers. To participate just click on the Your Voice link embedded in every Influencer series story.