Gerrymandering is bad for business in North Carolina

Over 100 CEOs of prominent corporations have urged North Carolina lawmakers to rethink the passage of House Bill 2, passed in a day to block Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance. And nearly half of North Carolina voters want to repeal HB2, according to new survey results from Public Policy Polling.

But it’s unclear whether legislators will feel any motivation to listen.

The troubling reality is that 90 percent of lawmakers voting in favor of HB2 either face no competition in this fall’s election or are running in such heavily gerrymandered districts that they are virtually guaranteed victory.

Gerrymandering is largely the reason for the lack of competition in our elections and a chief culprit behind increased polarization in our state’s politics, undercutting the bipartisan cooperation that has made North Carolina great.

Over many decades, our state has been among the fastest-growing in the nation, with people from across the country and around the globe drawn to North Carolina as a place where innovation is embraced and businesses can thrive. We owe much of the prosperity here to moderate voices from a broad spectrum of political views, advanced by North Carolinians who have worked together to promote our state’s best interests.

Democrats and Republicans partnered on such forward-thinking projects as the Research Triangle Park. That bipartisan spirit has also been a driving force in Charlotte’s becoming a banking capital of the U.S. And the longtime investment in our world-class universities has made North Carolina home to the best and brightest talent in any career field.

However, that tradition of moderation and cooperation is jeopardized by gerrymandering, which has created an atmosphere where candidates have more incentive to speak to either the far left or far right than to seek a more centrist way.

“Compromise” should not be a dirty word in politics, but rather be a sign that principled people can find common ground on important issues. That’s why a growing number of civic leaders, along with a majority of voters across the state, support an independent process for redistricting in North Carolina.

Instead of politicians drawing their own voting maps, redistricting should be entrusted to a nonpartisan body that can ensure congressional and legislative districts reflect our state’s population. Fairly drawn districts can ensure that candidates have to speak to a broad range of citizens in order to win on Election Day and that voters have a chance to hold their elected officials accountable.

In turn, our state would have a reliably moderate political climate, giving businesses and residents confidence that we won’t see rash and radical swings of the political pendulum from one extreme to the other.

Thankfully, many Republicans and Democrats join us in supporting a better way to draw our voting maps. Both Gov. Pat McCrory and Attorney General Roy Cooper have called for an end to gerrymandering. And just last year, a bipartisan majority of N.C. House members co-sponsored a bill to establish independent redistricting.

With such strong bipartisan backing, we call on our state’s political leaders and legislative candidates running in 2016 to support redistricting reform and to do all in their power to establish a truly fair and independent process for drawing North Carolina’s voting maps.

It would make possible something we can’t do now: hold our elected officials accountable.

Bob Phillips is executive director of the nonpartisan Common Cause North Carolina.