RALEIGH – A majority of North Carolina voters favor moving to a nonpartisan system for drawing the state's congressional and legislative districts, according to a new survey from Public Policy Polling.
The poll finds 59 percent of voters in favor of nonpartisan redistricting, with just 15 percent opposed. Twenty-six percent say they are unsure.
Support for independent redistricting holds across party lines, with 69 percent of unaffiliated voters, 59 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of Republicans in favor of reform.
"North Carolinians have been divided about a lot in recent years," said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. "But one thing we've found to be a constant across party lines is support for making the redistricting process more fair and less political."
Conducted Jan. 13-16, the statewide poll of 953 registered North Carolina voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Under North Carolina's longstanding redistricting process, partisan legislators draw the state's congressional and legislative districts. The result has been gerrymandered voting maps that heavily favor one party or the other, leading to a lack of competition in elections. For instance, 42 percent of legislative districts had just one candidate on the ballot in 2016, following a trend going back decades.
Partisan gerrymandering has also led to costly court challenges, with more than 30 judicial interventions into North Carolina's redistricting process in the past 30 years. In 2016, federal courts overturned the state's congressional and legislative districts due to racial gerrymandering and ordered lawmakers to redraw them.
A proposal championed by a broad coalition of organizations would take redistricting power out of the hands of partisan legislators and give it to nonpartisan legislative staff. In turn, that independent staff would be required to follow strict criteria when drawing the districts, without consideration of partisan political data.
A similar proposal was approved by the NC House with bipartisan support in 2011, but did not receive a vote in the NC Senate. It was re-introduced in 2013, and again 2015, then with a majority of House members co-sponsoring the measure, but the bill stalled in committee.
"We see growing support for fair redistricting as people across the political spectrum recognize that gerrymandering is undermining the right of citizens to choose their representatives," said Bob Phillips, executive director of the nonpartisan Common Cause North Carolina. "This poll clearly shows that the voters of North Carolina favor independent redistricting reform."
Over 240 civic leaders across North Carolina have signed a petition calling on the legislature to pass independent redistricting reform. And a dozen towns and cities across the state have passed resolutions in support of independent redistricting.
Over 100 North Carolina business leaders have launched a coalition calling for an end to gerrymandering. Gov. Roy Cooper is on record opposing gerrymandering, as are former governors Pat McCrory, Jim Martin and Jim Hunt.