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Understanding Redistricting

The latest on the fight for fair maps.

Want to end gerrymandering in North Carolina?

Here’s what’s really in seven bills aimed at ending gerrymandering in North Carolina.

2019-2020 Redistricting Bills

All the reform bills require districts that will be compact, contiguous, and abide by state and federal law to protect the voting strength of racial minority groups. No use shall be made of political factors, including voter registration, previous election results, or incumbents’ addresses, except where needed to comply with state and federal law. They also make resources available to facilitate citizen participation in the process and provide a timetable or schedule for the process.

Those with citizen commissions include strict requirements on who can serve on the Commission to minimize partisan or political influence and restricts Commissioners from running for public office for a period of time after service. They also allow the Commission or staff to draw plans for local government entities as directed by the North Carolina General assembly.

Senate Bill 673 – N.C. Citizens Redistricting Commission | DEMOCRACY NC-ENDORSED GOLD STANDARD — act now: demnc.co/gold 

  • Constitutional amendment—requires 60% support in each house to place it on the ballot. Then, a majority of voters must approve the amendment before it is added to the NC Constitution.
  • The N.C. Citizens Redistricting Commission has final say on maps, no role for General Assembly.
  • Creates a 15-person commission—5 Democrats, 5 Republicans and 5 from neither of the two largest parties. 8 members are appointed by leadership of both parties in the NC House and Senate from a pool of voters that have applied and been pre-cleared for eligibility. The final 7 are chosen at random. Applicants must meet strict criteria to limit partisan influence.
  • Commission shall hold at least 20 hearings—10 before the plan is drawn and 10 after an initial plan created but before it is finalized.
  • Commission shall make resources available to the public to permit them to draw their own maps, understand the process, and submit comments. It shall do all it can to facilitate the ability of the public to provide substantive comments on any proposed plan.
  • If the Commission is unable to adopt a plan, it shall hire a Special Master to draw a plan, which shall be adopted by the Commission.

House Bill 69 – Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission

  • Not a constitutional amendment, final approval remains with General Assembly
  • 11-person commission made up of voters from a pool nominated by legislative leaders—4 Democrats, 4 Republicans and 3 not affiliated with either major party. Commissioners shall represent the state’s racial, ethnic, geographic and gender diversity.
  • The commission will hold a total of 21 public hearings both before and after the drawing of the maps, create the maps in a transparent public process and encourage citizen participation.
  • Once the commission completes and approves a redistricting plan, the plan will be sent to the NC General Assembly, which will vote on the maps without altering them. If the NC General Assembly rejects the maps, they must explain why. The Commission will redraw maps and submit them again to the NC General Assembly.

House Bill 140 – The FAIR Act

  • Constitutional amendment—requires 60% support in each house to place it on the ballot. Then, a majority of voters must approve the amendment before it is added to the NC Constitution.
  • Maps will be drawn by legislative staff, with an advisory commission, and NC General Assembly will retain authority over passage of the maps. It does not establish an independent commission.
  • The advisory commission will answer questions from the legislative staff, authorize policies for the release of information related to the redistricting plans, and organize, conduct and summarize 3 public hearings.

House Bill 648 – NC FAIR State and Congressional Districts Act

  • Not a constitutional amendment, final approval remains with General Assembly
  • Creates Independent Redistricting Commission with 16 members—11 voting members and 5 non-voting alternates. 8 members chosen by legislative leadership in both houses, these 8 members chose the final 3.
  • Commission hires a special master to draw at least two sets of maps for the North Carolina General Assembly and US Congressional districts.
  • The Commission shall determine which of the plans drawn by the special master are to be submitted to the NC General Assembly. Members of the NC General Assembly are not precluded from amending the maps or drafting their own.

House Bill 827 – N.C. Citizens Redistricting Commission

  • Not a constitutional amendment, final approval remains with General Assembly
  • Creates 15-member commission divided among the two largest parties and voters unaffiliated with both major parties. 9 are appointed by 2 each from the legislative leadership in both parties and 1 by the Governor. The remaining 6 will be chosen by the original 9.
  • The State Auditor shall provide the commission with a list of names of potential special masters who may draw plans should the Commission not be able to agree on maps.
  • Requires commission to hold a minimum of 20 hearings across the state.  It shall provide the public with resources so that they may understand and review any plans. It shall also provide access to the resources needed to draw maps using the mapping software and census data.
  • The Commission and its members are subject to NC’s public meetings law.

House Bill 574 and Senate Bill 641 – Fix Our Democracy

  • Identical bills that address a number of democracy reform issues, including redistricting reform.
  • Constitutional amendment—requires 60% support in each house to place it on the ballot. Then, a majority of voters must approve the amendment before it is added to the NC Constitution.
  • Creates a 15-member Citizens Redistricting Commission—5 Democrats, 5 Republicans and 5 not from either major party. Passage of maps requires at least 9 votes with 3D, 3R, 3U votes.
  • Legislative leaders in both chambers select 2 commissioners each. These 8 commissioners select the remaining 7 commissioners from the remaining pool (need 6 votes minimum in this process)
  • Commissioners then select from a list of viable Special Masters submitted by the State Auditor. The Special Master will draw the maps if the Commission is unable to agree.
  • The Commission shall hold 20 public hearings—10 before the maps are drawn and 10 after the maps are drawn to encourage citizen involvement and participation.

What is Redistricting?

Most of our political representatives, from school boards to Congress, are elected by voters who have been sorted into districts. Redrawing the boundary lines for these districts is called redistricting.

Under the U.S. Constitution, redistricting happens about every ten years, after each decade’s U.S. Census, to adjust the districts and make them roughly equal in population. In North Carolina, elected representatives are authorized to redraw the district lines for their own governmental body. So, school board members draw the school board lines, City Council members draw the city council lines, and state legislators in the N.C. General Assembly draw the state legislative and Congressional district lines.

How Does Redistricting Affect Me?

The way a district’s lines are drawn may include or exclude certain people. These decisions are often made based on party affiliation, race, or other factors, and can affect who gets heard, whose interests are most represented, and who can win the next election. Too often in redrawing districts, elected officials focus on their own re-election rather than the people’s interests. Redistricting then becomes a secretive process focused on advancing partisan interests; it becomes a way for politicians to pick their preferred voters and secure their power.

What is Gerrymandering?

Gerrymandering is the deliberate drawing of districts in a way that maximizes the power of politicians. Gerrymandering may result in oddly-shaped districts designed to greatly increase or decrease a certain kind of voter (e.g., Black voters or Republican voters). For instance, to the right, legislators drew former Senate District 21 (since redrawn) with tentacles that added black voters from Cumberland Co. to make District 19 more white.

How Can We Improve the Redistricting Process?

At Democracy North Carolina, we believe the redistricting process should be open, fair, and participatory. Whether redistricting is conducted by an independent, nonpartisan body, or by the state legislature, or by using court-ordered standards, any process should:

  • Protect voters of color by drawing districts that reflect the requirements of the Voting Rights Act and Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
  • Invite robust debate from community members, academics, and other stakeholders, and incorporate their feedback in the creation of districts.
  • Reject partisan or racial gerrymandering of districts.

NORTH CAROLINA MAP STORIES

On August 22, 2017, North Carolinians from all across the state made their voices heard against the dangers of gerrymandering. These are some of their stories.

Rev. Cardes Brown: "No Hope" Process Will Be Fair

Chair of the Greensboro NAACP, Rev. Cardes Brown shares that because lawmakers have a long history of gerrymandering voters, he has "no hope that this [latest round of districts] will come out in a way that is fair and represents the will of the people."

Janice Siebert: My Lawmakers "Don't Listen to Me."

Janice Siebert shares the "cost of gerrymandering" in heartfelt public comment during a local hearing in Jamestown, North Carolina. "My representative and Senator don't listen to me — because they don't have to," says Seibert.

Linda Sutton: "Voters are Sick and Tired"

Linda Sutton of Winston-Salem shares her displeasure with new legislative maps at a public hearing on redistricting in Jamestown, North Carolina. "The voters are sick and tired of being sick and tired of being disenfranchised," says Sutton.

Bob Hall: Process Has Been "Disrespectful"

Democracy NC Executive Director Bob Hall comments on the "disrespectful" public hearing process and shares a new report showing the true impact of partisan gerrymandering on 2017 legislative maps — and how current configurations create “an enormous Republican edge.”

JOIN THE FIGHT FOR FAIR MAPS! VOLUNTEER TODAY.

Why does redistricting matter?

Our representatives in local, state, and federal government set the rules by which we live. In ways large and small, they affect the taxes we pay, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the ways in which we make each other safer and more secure.

Periodically, we hold elections to make sure that these representatives continue to listen to us. All of our legislators in state government, many of our legislators in local government, and most of our legislators in Congress are elected from districts, which divide a state and its voters into geographical territories. In most of these districts, all of the voters are ultimately represented by the candidate who wins the most votes in the district.

The way that voters are grouped into districts therefore has an enormous influence on who our representatives are, and what policies they fight for. For example, a district composed mostly of farmers is likely to elect a representative who will fight for farmers’ interests, but a district composed mostly of city dwellers may elect a representative with different priorities. Similarly, districts drawn with large populations of the same race, or ethnicity, or language, or political party are more likely to elect representatives with the same characteristics.

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