Consensus growing in support of redistricting reform
RALEIGH - In today's polarized political climate, it can often feel like the two sides don't agree on anything.
And if you watch too much cable news you might get the impression that not only do they disagree, but they also spend most of their time yelling at each other trying to get a point across.
Refreshingly, in North Carolina signs continue to point to real bipartisan support for a new way to draw congressional and legislative maps that takes party politics out of the process.
Every 10 years after the census, the state legislature is tasked with redrawing the boundaries of our voting districts to accommodate for population shifts and other factors.
And every 10 years, whichever party is in power crafts the maps to favor their own candidates. The Democrats did it when they were in charge for most of the 20th century, and when Republicans took over in 2011 they turned the tables and did the same.
Today though, there is a bipartisan movement growing to find a better way to draw maps that lets voters choose their representatives, instead of the other way around.
Earlier this year we saw two former mayors, one Republican and one Democrat, from our state's two biggest cities come together in support of nonpartisan redistricting and an end to gerrymandering.
Richard Vinroot, a Republican from Charlotte, and Charles Meeker, and Democrat from Raleigh, spoke out on the need for a more impartial way to redraw districts and launched an effort to garner the support of fellow mayors across North Carolina.
In August, two former members of the N.C. House of Representatives, again one Republican and one Democrat, joined the call for redistricting reform. Former representatives Bill Current (R-Gaston) and Ray Rapp (D-Madison) both championed reform when they served in the General Assembly, and they are now encouraging current and future members of the legislature to do the same.
It's not just politicians pushing for reform either. John Hood, head of the conservative John Locke Foundation, and Chris Fitzsimon, director of the progressive NC Policy Watch, have both been vocal proponents of taking the power to draw our voting districts away from the very politicians who stand to gain, or lose, the most by how those maps are crafted.
If all of the prominent people from across the political spectrum agree on the need for reform, there must be something awfully flawed in our current system. We don't see that kind of bipartisan agreement every day, which underscores just how fundamental this issue is to our democracy.
There's nothing more important than our right to vote, but that right is not truly honored when our legislative and congressional districts are drawn in the interest of partisan politics, instead of the voters.
Nonpartisan redistricting is a worthy goal, and one of the most vital structural reforms the General Assembly should take up in 2015. After all, in a day and age where we can rarely get both sides to agree on what color the sky is, something important must be happening if they're coming together to find a better way to redraw North Carolina's voting districts.
(Brent Laurenz is executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education and a contributor to TheVoterUpdate.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)