RALEIGH – Nearly 100 North Carolinians braved a scorching July sun to participate in the "End Gerrymandering Fun Run" organized by Common Cause NC.
The 5K course began and ended at Trophy Brewing & Pizza on West Morgan Street in Raleigh, largely following the border of a gerrymandered state House district. Participants paused in front of the NC Legislative Building to pose with signs calling for fair voting maps.
"It's really inspiring to see so many people from all ages come out in 90-degree heat to show their support for ending gerrymandering," said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. "This is the kind of 'people-power' that it's going to take to finally enact fair and common-sense redistricting in North Carolina."
The event featured the unveiling of an anti-gerrymandering mural on the back wall of Trophy Brewing & Pizza, painted by Raleigh artist Sean Kernick of Oak City Mural. At the conclusion of the run, participants enjoyed pizza, beer and birthday cake for Elbridge Gerry, namesake of gerrymandering, as this month marked the 273rd anniversary of his birth.
Gerrymandering has been a top issue in North Carolina in recent months, with a federal court striking down dozens of legislative districts that had been unconstitutionally gerrymandered along racial lines, and ordered those districts to be redrawn. At the same time, there has been growing support for nonpartisan redistricting across the state.
House Bill 200 would take redistricting power out of the hands of legislators and give it to an independent body, which in turn would draw districts free from partisan politics. While the measure has broad support in the NC House with 39 bipartisan co-sponsors, it has not yet been given a hearing or a vote in that chamber.
Under North Carolina's longstanding system, whichever party controls the legislature also controls redistricting. For decades, the result has been gerrymandered voting maps that heavily favor one party or the other and reduce competition on Election Day.
Since 1992, nearly half of all legislative races have had just one candidate on the ballot. That trend continued in last year's election as millions of North Carolinians were deprived of any choice in who would represent them in the legislature.
An overwhelming majority of North Carolina voters support independent redistricting, as shown by a Public Policy Polling survey in April. According to the poll's results, 80 percent of voters say it’s not fair for politicians to draw their own districts. That includes 85 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of independent voters.
Over 260 civic leaders from 130 towns and cities across North Carolina have signed a petition calling on the legislature to pass independent redistricting reform. And more than 100 North Carolina business owners have launched a coalition calling for an end to gerrymandering.