A year later, bipartisan redistricting reform bill still awaits a vote
A year ago today, a bipartisan group of 39 NC House members, led by four Republicans, introduced a plan to end gerrymandering in North Carolina. Twelve months later, the bill has still not been given a vote or even a hearing.
House Bill 200 would take redistricting power out of the hands of legislators and give it to an impartial body that in turn would draw our state’s voting districts free from partisan politics.
The measure has broad support in the NC House and overwhelming support among the public. But for the past year House Bill 200 has sat untouched in the General Assembly, blocked by legislative leaders.
Since HB200 was introduced last February, some 380 bills have passed the NC House. The average number of co-sponsors for those bills is 10 – far below the 39 bipartisan co-sponsors of House Bill 200. Just eight of those 380 bills passed in the House have more co-sponsors than HB200.
During the past 365 days of legislative leaders refusing to give HB200 a vote, here are some things that have happened in what has been a historic year in the fight to end gerrymandering:
• In March, more than 600 North Carolinians participated in a Citizens Lobby Day to End Gerrymandering at the NC Legislative Building, calling for passage of HB200.
• In April, Common Cause NC members delivered a petition to state House Speaker Tim Moore signed by thousands of North Carolinians calling for approval of nonpartisan redistricting.
• In June, over 150 citizens packed a committee room at the legislature for a People’s Hearing on Fair Redistricting, calling on legislative leaders to give HB200 a vote.
• In October, a federal court ordered gerrymandered legislative districts to be redrawn with the help of an independent expert.
• In January, another federal court issued a landmark decision in Common Cause v. Rucho, striking down the legislature’s blatant gerrymander of congressional districts. The case marked the first time in North Carolina’s history that a court ruled partisan gerrymandering – like racial gerrymandering – is unconstitutional. The ultimate fate of that case is now in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.
• Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case from Wisconsin challenging partisan gerrymandering and agreed to hear another partisan gerrymandering case from Maryland. Decisions in those cases are expected sometime this year and could have a profound impact on ending gerrymandering in North Carolina and across the nation.
• A survey last month from Public Policy Polling found that nearly 60 percent of North Carolina voters want nonpartisan redistricting. Just 15 percent of voters favor the current partisan system for drawing voting maps.
While legislative leaders have stubbornly denied the bipartisan supporters of HB200 a vote on their proposal, the courts and the public have never been more clear: the time for common-sense redistricting reform is now.
Here’s hoping that in the year ahead, North Carolina’s lawmakers will hear that call and finally take action on House Bill 200.