Lawmakers who want to reform the redistricting process in North Carolina say uncertainty over pending map litigation and the shaky balance of power at the legislature make them more optimistic their ideas will be voted on this year. House Democrats and Republicans filed legislation on Wednesday that would create an 11-member “nonpartisan” redistricting commission. The panel would propose new legislative and congressional maps to the General Assembly after each decennial census, the next one of which occurs in 2020. Lawmakers have filed similar bills in previous years, unsuccessfully. The House and Senate revise and approve General Assembly and congressional districts based on population changes from the census. For generations, majority parties have pushed through maps favoring their sides. When they were in the minority 10 years ago, many Republicans supported the idea of the commission. In the years since regaining General Assembly control, they largely have set the proposal aside.
Bill co-sponsor Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Henderson County Republican, said both political and legal uncertainties may make GOP leaders more willing to consider the idea now. Democrats made enough seat gains in November to put in doubt which party would control redistricting in 2021, McGrady said.
It’s “maybe the time that both sides finally come together and say we prefer to have nonpartisan redistricting as opposed to have the other party be completely in charge of the system,” McGrady said at a news conference with groups that back a redistricting overhaul. McGrady said colleagues also don’t like the idea of judges making redistricting decisions.
GOP maps have been almost continuously subject to lawsuits since 2011. Maps were redrawn after courts ruled some of the districts had been illegally gerrymandered along racial lines. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit arguing that the congressional lines contain excessive partisan bias.