On March 1, 2017, North Carolina citizens took advantage of the NC Legislature citizen’s lobby day and spoke directly to their state representatives, aiming to persuade representatives to vote for independent redistricting to counter NC’s long history of gerrymandering.
A federal court in November 2016 ordered NC lawmakers to have a special election and to redraw 28 state House and Senate districts after finding them unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering.
This court case has continued on into 2017, as the US Supreme Court also ordered legislative redistricting. The Supreme Court also put the special election previously ordered by the federal court in 2016 on hold due to a lawsuit from Republican legislative leaders in NC. Currently, there are five pending court cases involving allegations of racial and political gerrymandering in NC.
The first, Dickson v. Rucho, is currently pending for review with the Supreme court. It challenged NC’s 2011 legislative and congressional district maps. The second, McCrory v. Harris, was argued before the Supreme Court on December 5. An opinion has not been issued, the issues deals with districts one and 12 in NC’s 2011 congressional map after a three-judge panel ruled the map was drawn with race in mind.
North Carolina v. Covington, the third case, has been appealed to the Supreme Court. The outcome being the court’s order for the state to redraw racially gerrymandered districts, as mentioned earlier. The other two current gerrymandering cases are partisan.
Common Cause v. Rucho, Common Cause filed a lawsuit about the new congressional map adopted this year, being a partisan gerrymander. League of Women Voters v. Rucho, this case was filed in September, it also challenged the state’s congressional map, also claiming it a partisan gerrymander.
Bob Phillips of Common Cause North Carolina has stated that while the president could possibly have some impact in the redistricting cases, two of the court’s conservative justices have shown interest in reviewing the cases.
“It’s really hard to say what could happen right now,” Phillips said, as quoted by NC Policy Watch. “I think it’s important to have Cooper in office. He legitimately brings a new voice that’s powerful and can reach all across the state,” as stated in an article from NC Policy Watch. Phillip’s hopes are that Cooper will influence the legislature and promote the need for change.
Michael Curtis, a professor at Wake Forest University’s School of Law, has commented on the current state of NC’s redistricting movements as well.
“A bipartisan redistricting committee would be a step in the right direction, and surely better than the system currently being used for redistricting,” Curtis said in an article from NC Policy Watch. “The legislators pick the voters instead of the other way around. When people gerrymander, it’s a way of rigging the election.”
Curtis and Phillips both believe the Supreme Court will want to use partisan redistricting, though the justices have not yet reviewed the idea.
Recently, support for redistricting has grown, as have demonstrations for it given the March first rally.
Ira Botvinick, an independent Raleigh voter, believes this is the critical issue of the of-age voter’s time.
“You’re riding high now, but you can fall off the horse and be on the short end again,” Botvinick said, as quoted by NC Policy Watch. “It’s not partisan to have competitive districts, and being an advocate for maxing out competition is in everyone’s best interest,” as quoted by NC Policy Watch. As one of the hundreds who went to the March 1 rally, Botvinick spoke out against gerrymandering and lobbied to end the practice.
House Bill 200 was introduced before this by a bipartisan group of lawmakers in an effort to take the politics out of gerrymandering and to end it in general, the bill would make it so that nonpartisan staff could create congressional and legislative maps blind of political consideration. The bill would take effect during the 2021 redistricting cycle.