One of us is a Democrat in the state Senate, the other is a Republican in the state House. There’s plenty we disagree on. But something big is bringing us together: It’s time for North Carolina to move to an independent redistricting system.
Under current law, North Carolina requires the state legislature to draw political districts for the state House, state Senate and the federal congressional districts. As a result, the same elected officials who stand to win or lose based on the outcome of the redistricting process are themselves in control of the process. Even with the best of intentions the current redistricting process creates at least the perception of a conflict of interest, if not an actual one.
For decades, pressure has been building to end partisan redistricting in North Carolina. For decades, both Democrats and Republicans have been equally unwilling to change our current system. We believe that this is the moment for a bipartisan solution to a bipartisan problem.
Today, we are introducing a bill that will create a nine-member Independent Redistricting Commission. None of the members can be elected officials. Appointments will be made by the top political leaders of both parties and both chambers, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court, and the governor. The commission will produce three sets of maps that must comply with state and federal law but may not consider voting data from past elections. The General Assembly will have 120 days to approve one of the maps – without amendment – or the commission will choose.
Kicks in in 2031
A similar bill passed the state House in 2011 but failed in the Senate. This bill, however, makes a bold compromise by having the commission take effect only after the next round of redistricting in 2021. The following redistricting, in 2031, would be the first to comply with the independent redistricting process. We strongly believe that this compromise is the key to obtaining support from both sides.
Of the 21 states that have implemented some form of independent redistricting, each has taken a different approach. So would we. There may also be additional bills filed that seek to achieve the common goal of restoring public confidence in this critical part of our democratic process. Our top concern is simply that one of these bills actually becomes law.
As two state legislators from different parties, we believe that a bipartisan, common-sense solution to this issue is truly possible. We look forward to the conversation to come and encourage all of our citizens to take part, have their voices heard, and help guide our state in a positive direction.