RALEIGH — A diverse gathering of state lammakers, public interest groups, policy analysts, and others down at the North Carolina General Assembly Monday put their collective weight behind a new approach to drawing electoral districts.
Legislation submitted by Republican Sen. Ham Horton of Forsyth and Democratic Sen. Ellie Kinnaird of Orange would authorize nonpartisan commissions to prepare electoral districts for the North Carolina House and Senate as well as the U.S. House. After nearly two decades of partisan gamesmanship, egregious gerrymanders, ill will, public confusion, and litigation reaching the highest state and federal courts in the land, perhaps now will be the time that lawmakers of good faith in both major parties see the benefits of adopting a less political redistricting system.
I say less political, rather than apolitical, because it is impossible to completely divorce partisan interests from the process. After all, members of a commission would themselves be political appointees. But years of experience with commissions in a number of states demonstrate that the system works to reduce the horse-trading and incumbency-protection aspects while still retaining oversight by the voters’ elected representatives.
In addition to forming redistricting commissions, I’d like to see the General Assembly prepare a set of standards for drawing fair and representative districts — perhaps those issued last year by the N.C. Supreme Court in the legislative-districts case — and submit them to the voters as a constitutional amendment.
Voters should choose their legislators, rather than the other way around.
Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of Carolina Journal.