As deadline approaches, will redistricting reform get a vote?

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  • Bob Phillips

A proposal to reduce the influence of partisan politics in the way North Carolina’s voting maps are drawn has broad, bipartisan support in the N.C. House. Yet the bill appears in danger of being denied a vote in that chamber.

A majority of House members are co-sponsoring House Bill 92, which would take the power of drawing congressional and legislative districts out of the hands of partisan lawmakers and give it to nonpartisan legislative staff, beginning with the next round of redistricting in 2021.

But while an overwhelming number of House members have voiced their support for the measure, House Bill 92 is yet to be taken up by the House Elections Committee.

The so-called “crossover deadline” is April 30, and most bills – including the redistricting reform measure – must pass at least one chamber by that date in order to be eligible for consideration during the remainder of the 2015-2016 legislative session.

Several facts help make the case for taking up House Bill 92:

– Of the roughly 200 bills passed so far this year by the House, only two have more sponsors than the 63 sponsors enjoyed by House Bill 92.

– In fact, among the bills passed by the House, the average number of sponsors is just 11 – far below House Bill 92.

– Both current co-chairs of the House Elections Committee – Rep. Bert Jones and Rep. David Lewis – voted for a similar plan in 2011, as did current N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore. Jones also co-sponsored a nearly identical proposal in 2013.

– Over 170 local elected officials across North Carolina have recently voiced their support for redistricting reform.

– Redistricting reform is widely supported by the public, with a 2013 poll conducted by the N.C. Center for Voter Education finding 70 percent of North Carolina voters in favor of implementing an independent process for drawing voting maps, including 73 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of unaffiliated voters.

“Redistricting reform has strong, bipartisan support among lawmakers and the public,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of the nonpartisan Common Cause North Carolina. “We hope legislative leaders will allow House Bill 92 to have the vote it clearly deserves.”