Source: Editorial Board
Democratic members of the North Carolina House introduced a new bill in late January that is meant to fight back against Republican redistricting reform and put an end to gerrymandering, WFMY reported.
House Bill 9, also called the Fair Maps Act, would amend the state Constitution by removing the redistricting power from partisan legislators and instead giving it to an independent commission made up of regular North Carolinians in the hopes that doing so would help create voting districts free of political influence.
If passed by the General Assembly, voters would be able to vote on the bill on the 2024 ballot. If passed by voters, the North Carolina Citizens Redistricting Commission would consist of 15 people, five each of Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters, during the redistricting process, according to WFMY.
Primary sponsors of the Fair Maps Act include Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), Rep. Robert Reives (D-Chatham, Randolph), Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham) and Rep. Diamond Staton-Williams (D-Cabarrus).
“Our bill proposes a citizen-driven process that will restore faith in our state legislature and the actions it takes because it will be truly representative,” Rep. Harrison said.
“The legislature should serve all North Carolinians, regardless of party,” Rep. Reives said. “One of the best ways we can do that is by passing the Fair Maps Act to ensure we have a government that works for everyone.”
“Gerrymandering violates the freedom of North Carolina voters to have a voice in choosing their representatives,” Rep. Morey said. “It’s time to end gerrymandering for good and respect the rights of voters by passing the Fair Maps Act.”
“North Carolina’s voting districts don’t belong to politicians, they belong to the people,” Rep. Staton-Williams said. “The Fair Maps Act would establish a common-sense redistricting process that puts people over politics.”
Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, recognized the bill’s sponsors and credited them for introducing the Fair Maps Act that would lead to the end of gerrymandering in North Carolina.
“The courts have made it clear that gerrymandering is unconstitutional in North Carolina and the public overwhelmingly wants nonpartisan redistricting,” Phillips said. “We urge members of both parties to put the rights of North Carolinians above partisan politics by passing the Fair Maps Act.”
According to the bill, the North Carolina Citizens Redistricting Commission would draw districts that are equal in population, contiguous, compact, and in full compliance with the U.S. Constitution and federal law. The commission would also try to ensure that counties, municipalities and communities of interest don’t get split up.
The Fair Maps Act also bans lobbyists, major political donors or relatives of legislators from serving on the commission.
A previous version of the bill, filed in 2019, included more than 50 sponsors, including Republicans, according to The News & Observer. This session’s bill includes only 17 sponsors and they are all Democrats.
When reading the bill, it’s hard to imagine anyone having a genuine issue with it. North Carolina is a “purple” state and its elected officials should represent that fact. With the court-ordered maps currently in place, North Carolina ended up sending seven Democrats and seven Republicans to the U.S. House of Representatives – the very definition of fair in a state where the Republican/Democrat/Unaffiliated voter split is broken up almost evenly into thirds.
Of course, “fair” is a word rarely used or respected by Republicans so it makes sense that they would be opposed to maps that actually reflect the political makeup of our state. The previous voting map, which was thrown out by the courts, gave Republicans a nine to four advantage over Democrats in the U.S. House (Note: the 2020 Census resulted in North Carolina adding one seat to its U.S. House delegation).
It’s yet to be seen if any Republicans will come forward to co-sponsor the Fair Maps Act or at least speak in support of it, but judging by the fact that Republican legislative leaders have already requested that the state Supreme Court throw out last year’s decision on redistricting and voter ID, chances are likely slim that any will come forward.