Charlotte Reps. Beasley and Jeter make bipartisan push for fair voting maps
CHARLOTTE – Democratic Rep. Chaz Beasley and Republican former Rep. Charles Jeter have both represented NC House District 92 in Mecklenburg County. On Tuesday, these two lawmakers from opposite sides of the political aisle stood together in a Charlotte-area neighborhood divided by gerrymandered voting maps to make a bipartisan case for redistricting reform.
Beasley and Jeter spoke to reporters in front of homes where the legislative map twists and turns along the subdivision’s streets, splitting next-door neighbors into different districts.
“The residents of this gerrymandered neighborhood here in Mecklenburg County are emblematic of the millions of citizens across our state who have had their voices stifled by a broken redistricting system that puts politicians ahead of voters,” Beasley said. “We are here today to say ‘enough.’ It’s time for leaders from both parties to work together and enact a nonpartisan redistricting process that protects the right of citizens to have a true choice in our elections.”
Jeter, who introduced legislation to enact nonpartisan redistricting during his service in the NC House, also voiced his support for reform.
“There’s a better way to draw our state’s voting maps, and that’s through an independent redistricting process,” Jeter said. “Enacting redistricting reform is the right thing to do for the people of North Carolina, and it’s a smart insurance policy for both political parties.”
Beasley is among 39 bipartisan co-sponsors of House Bill 200. Introduced last year, the proposal would take redistricting power out of the hands of legislators and give it to an impartial body that in turn would draw voting districts free from partisan politics.
A January survey from Public Policy Polling found that nearly 60 percent of North Carolina voters want nonpartisan redistricting, with just 15 percent in favor of the current partisan system. Yet even with such strong public support for reform, legislative leaders have so far refused to give House Bill 200 a vote or even a hearing.
However, recent judicial decisions have given advocates of nonpartisan redistricting hope for real progress in ending gerrymandering.
Last month, a federal court issued a landmark ruling in Common Cause v. Rucho, striking down the legislature’s blatant partisan gerrymander of the state’s congressional maps. That decision marked the first time in North Carolina’s history that a court ruled partisan gerrymandering – like racial gerrymandering – is unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, over 100 business owners have launched a coalition calling for an end to gerrymandering. And more than 250 locally elected officials from 130 towns and cities across the state have urged the legislature to take politics out of the redistricting process.
Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC, said the growing bipartisan support for reform, coupled with key court victories, means 2018 could be a breakthrough year in the fight to end gerrymandering.
“At a time when there is so much polarization in politics, it’s powerful to see Republicans and Democrats like Representatives Beasley and Jeter working together to pass nonpartisan redistricting,” Phillips said. “The message from the courts and the public is clear: we must end gerrymandering now.”