Working for a Citizens' Redistricting Commission
by Brian Irving
LPNC Liaison to Fair Districts NC
Fair Districts NC is a statewide campaign by a broad, nonpartisan coalition of groups from across the political spectrum who have come together to promote a sound solution to the problem of partisan redistricting – gerrymandering.
The Libertarian Party of North Carolina is part of this coalition.
They’re working to educate and mobilize North Carolinians to introduce a citizen-led process to draw our electoral districts and end gerrymandering in our state. The goal is redistricting reform by 2021, when the legislature must redraw all Congressional and state legislative districts following the 2020 Census.
The best solution to gerrymandering is a citizens' commission, where voters from both major parties, as well as voters registered independent or with third parties, draw the maps and, ideally, approve them.
In states with citizen commissions, there are more competitive districts, fewer court challenges (and even fewer that succeed), higher voter approval for the legislature, and more cooperation to find solutions that work for everyone.
To define a good commission design for North Carolina, Fair Districts studied 50 bills introduced in legislatures in 15 states – mostly in the South. They identified a reform that can both end extreme gerrymandering and pass the legislature.
Five Principles of Reasonable Redistricting Reform
The result was the Five Principles of Reasonable Redistricting Reform:
1. Include the legislature in the process, such as in naming some of the commissioners.
2. Include citizens and/or impartial experts as members of a commission reflecting the state's racial and other diversity.
3. Set strict rules for the commission’s work that:
a. Apply traditional redistricting standards (compact, contiguous, respect communities of interest);
b. Do not allow the use of partisan data or partisan objectives (except to comply with federal law), and;
c. Use voting rules that require consensus support for the maps from commissioners across the political spectrum.
4. Provide extensive citizen participation and transparency.
5. Make the maps final on the commission’s vote.
Fair Districts NC is a campaign rather than a formal organization. All of its programs are strictly nonpartisan. It neither advocates for nor opposes any party or candidate. The League of Women Voters of North Carolina manages Fair Districts NC activities. Current members are:
Church Women United of North Carolina
League of Women Voters of North Carolina
Libertarian Party of North Carolina
NAACP of North Carolina (and several local chapters)
North Carolina Council of Churches
More than 1,400 citizens and organizations have also endorsed the principles to date.
What You Can You
Redistricting reform is not easy, but protecting our democracy is worth the effort. In some states, citizens can collect signatures to put a law or constitutional amendment on the ballot. That's not an option under our constitution.
In North Carolina, the path to redistricting reform runs through the legislature, either as a bill or a constitutional amendment. The process has already begun. Legislators have introduced several reform bills. None of these bills is perfect, but they include a lot of good ideas.
(Click here to learn more about the bills.)
But, so far, none of the introduced bills has been heard in committee, the first step toward passage. Committee discussions can improve good ideas and fix problems.
But first, the committees have to take up the bills. And here’s a dirty little secret the establishment parties don’t want you to know. Under General Assembly rules, three people get to decide which bills are heard, whichever old party is in charge.
Currently, that Triumvirate is House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, and Rep. David Lewis.
It is more likely legislators -- and the NCGA leadership -- will consider a bill if they know many voters support redistricting reform. That's our top priority, educating voters across the state about why citizens, not politicians, should draw the districts and how a citizens' commission would work.
Once NC voters understand that whoever is in charge of the legislature will draw maps to benefit their party if they can (as we've just seen in the court-ordered redrawing), they’ll understand redistricting reform is not a Democratic issue nor a Republican issue, it's an American issue.
So Fair Districts NC is conducting forums around the state, targeting areas with Republican-controlled districts. Check the Fair Districts NC Facebook page for the current schedule.
Call To Action
Help us get the word out on why we, the voters, must act to end gerrymandering and how, together, we can get it done! Help us put pressure on the NCGA leadership to give a redistricting reform bill a fair hearing.
1. Attend these forums in your area; four of five Libertarians will make an impact. We need an LPNC representative at all of these events. If you want more info on how to do this, contact me directly via email or call (919) 538-4548.
2. Endorse the Five Principles of Reasonable Redistricting Reform as an individual. Go here.
3. Get your local LPNC affiliate to endorse the Five Principles of Reasonable Redistricting Reform. The state party already has. Send your endorsement to me. (I can also help you write one.)
4. Call your state legislators, especially if they’re a Republican. Ask them to give a redistricting reform bill a hearing. Look up your legislators here.
When we let politicians draw their districts, voters lose. We need a citizen's commission to draw our districts. Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.
Take action to help us End Gerrymandering Now!
If you're not sure what gerrymandering is, watch this short video which explains it very well.