Gerrymandering leaves NC voters with few choices in 2016
Candidate filing concluded Monday and nearly half of North Carolina’s legislative races will have just one name on the ballot come November.
Forty-one races for the NC House and 13 contests for the NC Senate fielded a single candidate by the close of filing. An additional 16 House and 2 Senate races will be decided solely in the primary.
Ultimately, 72 of the state’s 170 seats – or 42 percent – will be decided before a single vote is cast in the general election this fall.
The chief culprit behind this lack of competition is partisan gerrymandering, a longtime practice by which the party in control of the legislature during the once-a-decade redistricting process draws skewed voting maps that heavily favor their own side. Since 1992, over 40 percent of the state’s races for General Assembly have had just one candidate on the ballot.
“Once again, gerrymandering is undermining the fundamental right of North Carolinians to have a say in who represents them,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina. “We can’t call ourselves the world’s greatest democracy when so many voters have no choice at the ballot box. We must have an independent process for drawing our voting maps in North Carolina so that we have fair, competitive elections.”
This past legislative session, a majority of NC House members co-sponsored House Bill 92, which would take the power of redistricting out of the hands of legislators and give it to nonpartisan legislative staff. However, the bill has not been given a vote in the legislature.
At the same time, over 240 civic leaders across North Carolina have signed a petition calling on the legislature to pass redistricting reform. And both Gov. Pat McCrory and his possible 2016 gubernatorial opponent, Attorney General Roy Cooper, are on record opposing gerrymandering, as are former governors Jim Martin and Jim Hunt.
“It is heartening to see a growing number of Republicans and Democrats agree that we need independent redistricting,” Phillips said. “We hope the General Assembly will finally step up and protect the right of North Carolinians to have a voice in their elections, so that this embarrassing lack of competition in 2016 won’t be repeated in future years.”
Common Cause North Carolina is a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to encouraging citizen participation in democracy.
More information on the effort to establish independent redistricting in North Carolina can be found at EndGerrymanderingNow.org.