RALEIGH – Gerrymandering became the cause du jour of Democrats in North Carolina the minute Republican legislative majorities were in charge of drawing maps. In the intervening years lawsuits filed by Democrats have resulted in the lawmakers having to go back to the drawing board time and again in an attempt to satisfy court orders that blurred the lines delineating separation of powers.
Democrats have also been calling for a nonpartisan, or “independent,” redistricting body all the while. Of course, unless strict, inviolable standards are set in stone for drawing district maps, it’s actually very difficult to achieve a wholly independent perspective. Everyone has their biases.
That’s why the power to draw district maps is vested in the legislature; its the most accountable branch and the most reflective of political sentiment. But what Democrats really wanted were maps that were more “fair” to their political cause.
Now a bipartisan group of state lawmakers appear to have tired of the back and forth over redistricting (and redistricting, again). Wednesday the lawmakers filed a bill to create a ‘nonpartisan redistricting commission.’
House Bill 68 seeks to structure the ‘nonpartisan’ feature by balancing Republicans and Democrats and complementing it with a few Unaffiliated members. The bill would establish an 11-member commission made up of four Democrats, four Republicans, and three unaffiliated members. The duties of the 11 members are as follows:
In their preparations for redistricting, the commission would be required to hold at least 21 public hearings before a plan is proposed, and 10 more after the release of the first proposal.
The bill tackles all the nuts and bolts in redistricting – you can read them here – and it would presumably eliminate gerrymandering accusations as a political issue in 2020. We’ll have to wait and see how palatable the legislation is to the House and Senate as a whole.