Our View: Take redistricting out of lawmakers' hands


Rocky Mount Telegram

Sunday, January 21, 2018

It is well beyond time to take redistricting out of the hands of state legislators.

The state legislative and congressional district boundaries first drawn in 2011 by Republican lawmakers and redrawn in 2016 after a successful court challenge remain under litigation today. And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that they could still be under litigation when it’s time for them to be redrawn again in 2021 after the 2020 U.S. Census.

A panel of federal judges on Jan. 9 struck down the congressional district map that lawmakers redrew in 2016 and ordered the legislature to redraw it once again next week.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday delayed that lower-court order while similar court challenges to partisan gerrymandered congressional districts in Texas, Pennsylvania and Maryland also are pending in federal court..

Meanwhile, federal judges on Friday approved state legislative districts redrawn by an expert they hired after they were not happy with the districts they ordered lawmakers to redraw in August. Republican legislative leaders quickly announced that they intend to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to delay that order as well, so the new map will not be used in this year’s elections.

We have argued in the space for decades that an independent, nonpartisan commission should be used to draw legislative and congressional districts. We called for such a system when Democrats controlled the N.C. General Assembly, while their district maps were being successfully challenged in court. Back then, members of the then-Republican legislative minority agreed with that proposition. 

That view, of course, changed when the GOP took control of the General Assembly in 2011— and they proceeded to do what we did not think possible at the time: A worse and more partisan job of redistricting than the Democrats did.