North Carolina groups call for open and transparent redistricting process as lawmakers get ready to consider new voting maps
The letter raises concerns about secretive tactics used by legislative map-drawers in the previous round of redistricting and urges more public input this year
RALEIGH – A coalition of more than 50 groups sent a letter to North Carolina legislative leaders today calling for redistricting that is open and transparent, even as recent actions by lawmakers raise concerns that the public might be cut out of the map-drawing process.
The letter comes in advance of today’s public hearing on redistricting in Elizabeth City, the first of just three such hearings announced only a week ago by legislative leaders – which is a fraction of the redistricting hearings held in past map-drawing cycles.
“Open and transparent redistricting is not only fundamental to a representative democracy, but it is also crucial to strengthening trust in our elected officials and government,” the letter states. “The recent actions (and inactions) of legislative leaders make us deeply concerned that the North Carolina General Assembly will once again fail at its responsibility to create a robust, transparent, and thoughtful process for receiving vital public input to draw new maps.”
Over 50 groups signed the letter to legislators. See the full list of groups here.
The letter outlines elements of an inclusive redistricting process that would provide a more robust opportunity for public input that all North Carolinians deserve. Those recommendations include implementing a redistricting timeline that allows for informed public comment and ample opportunity for accessible public hearings both before and after draft maps are published. Also among the requests are public hearings held outside of traditional business hours, allowing working voters to attend and provide input, and an online comment portal with public access to all comments submitted.
The groups urge easily accessible and understandable online access to draft maps, along with live video streams of the map-drawing process and all public hearings in their entirety.
The letter demands that legislators not use secret maps and other processes that harm public confidence in our democracy, noting that legislators misled the public during the 2021 redistricting cycle. That year, despite claims that all map-drawing was occurring in public, it was revealed that nonpublic “concept maps” were used to craft North Carolina’s voting districts. The discovery of these “secret maps” was widely reported and damaged the perception of an open and transparent redistricting process that lawmakers promised.
That same year, the legislature also failed to follow its own redistricting criteria. As noted in the letter, lawmakers adopted redistricting criteria in 2021 that included a ban on partisan considerations. Yet, state courts found that the legislative and congressional maps created were all the result of “intentional pro-Republican partisan redistricting.” Districts were clearly drawn to maximize partisan advantage, disregarding community representation and input.
“The NC General Assembly has an opportunity in 2023 to provide genuine openness, transparency, and the opportunity for North Carolinians to engage in a process that will impact their elections in the decade to come,” the letter states. “We urge you to make the promise of democracy real by leading a redistricting process that creates voting plans reflective of the actual demographics, values, interests, and needs of North Carolinians.”