A coalition of groups is trying to take the politics out of the most political activity in state government: drawing legislative and congressional districts. The latest effort to end gerrymandering comes from groups representing organizations as diverse as the John Locke Foundation and the NC Policy Watch. The NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform is holding community meetings across the state – the next will be Wednesday night in Apex – to drum up support for a big change that would likely lead to more legislative and congressional races. Efforts to cut ties between legislators and political mapmaking have been going on for years. But this is the first community campaign on the issue, said Jane Pinsky, the coalition’s director. Organizers hope to build enough support for nonpartisan redistricting to get a bill passed calling for a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot, she said.
Every 10 years, the legislature redraws boundaries for 120 state House districts, 50 state Senate districts and the state’s U.S. House districts. The lines are redrawn after every census to account for changes in population. All House districts should have about the same number of people to comply with federal “one person, one vote” mandates. The same goes for Congressional districts and Senate districts.
But redistricting in North Carolina and most other states takes on a political bent that has as much to do with helping incumbents and holding on to political power as it does re-balancing the population. That leads to the party in power drawing lines that make it more likely that they will hold majorities until the next redistricting.
Only a relative handful of legislative districts are competitive, and only one of 13 North Carolina congressional contests last year was close: the 7th District race between Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre and Republican challenger David Rouzer.