Gerrymandering Shields Legislators from Thinking about All Constituents or the Common Good

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  • Scott Swenson, Dale Eisman
North Carolina Legislators Protected from Public Backlash Over Anti-LGBT Discrimination Bill

Fact Sheet: HB2 and Gerrymandering

RALEIGH – The North Carolina legislature last month held a one-day special session to pass House Bill 2, a controversial measure blocking the City of Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance that was designed to protect members of the LGBT community.  The legislature’s action has created a political firestorm, with a number of large companies condemning HB2 and PayPal announcing that it will no longer follow through on a plan to locate a global operations center in Charlotte because of the new law.

But while lawmakers face strong criticism over HB2, the reality is that the vast majority of them will likely suffer no consequences at the polls this fall over this or other legislation because of their gerrymandered districts.

Here are some facts:

  • 90 percent of lawmakers that voted in favor of HB2 either face no opponent this fall or come from districts so heavily gerrymandered that they won their last election by more than 10 percentage points.
  • This problem is not new. Since 1992, nearly half of all North Carolina legislative races have had just one candidate on the ballot. 
  • That trend continues in 2016, with 42 percent of all legislative candidates running unopposed this fall.

“Because of gerrymandering, millions of North Carolina voters will have no real opportunity to weigh in on the merits of HB2 or other legislation when they go to the polls this fall,” said Dennis Burns, chairman of Common Cause North Carolina. “North Carolinians deserve a redistricting process that encourages competition in elections and allows citizens to hold their representatives accountable at the ballot box.”

There has been a growing movement for redistricting reform in North Carolina:

  • Last year, a bipartisan majority of NC House members sponsored House Bill 92, which would take redistricting authority out of the hands of partisan lawmakers and give it to nonpartisan legislative staff. However, that proposal has not been given a vote in the legislature.
  • In the past year, over 40 local elected officials from 128 towns and cities across North Carolina have signed a petition calling for redistricting reform.
  • A majority of North Carolina voters support independent redistricting, according to a February 2016 survey from Public Policy Polling.
  • Both Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, and his challenger in this year’s election, Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, have spoken out against gerrymandering.