Barring a contested election or a race that’s simply too close to call, residents of Edgecombe and Martin counties woke up this morning with a new legislator set to take office in N.C. House District 23.
That’s a big change for Eastern North Carolina voters, who have been ably represented for many years by N.C. Rep. Joe Tolson. Tolson decided not to seek re-election this year.
Tuesday proved to be an interesting election for another reason, too. The candidates – Rusty Holderness and Shelly Willingham – are both Democrats.
They faced each other in a runoff because neither was able to win 40 percent of the vote in a crowded primary in May.
Whoever won Tuesday’s second primary will be the new representative because there is no Republican opponent to face in the fall.
That’s a shame – not because we oppose Democrats – but because North Carolina’s redistricting process has created more and more districts that are heavily stacked in favor of one party or the other. In the wake of the 2010 census, the majority of North Carolina’s congressional and legislative districts have leaned heavily Republican, since Republicans are in the majority of both the N.C. House and the N.C. Senate.
The N.C. General Assembly is responsible for redrawing the districts after every census. Little wonder that the new maps favor the GOP.
Prior to 2010, Democrats controlled both houses of the General Assembly for most of the the past 100 years. The Democrats gerrymandered districts in ways that favored their party for more than a century.
No matter which party holds the reins of power, the system is universally unfair to the voters of North Carolina.
We deserve to have a competitive choice in congressional and legislative races – not an election that has been preordained by partisan legislators armed with maps and databases.
North Carolina’s system for redistricting has been debated and challenged in the court system numerous times. But until the party in charge decides to make a change for a fairer system, we’re likely to have fewer choices on the ballot.