End the bickering

Published 1:22 am Sunday, July 24, 2011

The bickering begins every decade following the census as lawmakers attempt to tilt the playing field in their favor through redistricting. While representatives of both parties profess to act in the best interest of voters, both parties would also have you believe it’s the other who gerrymanders districts.
“The process has been created to be a partisan one, one that allows the party in power to continue to remain in power and choose its voters, rather than letting the voters choose their representatives,” said Jane Pinsky with the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying & Government Reform.
A bill under consideration in Raleigh would make the process less partisan. House Bill 824 was approved with bipartisan support in June. It is under review by the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations.
If approved, the act to establish a nonpartisan redistricting process would reduce partisanship when redistricting returns in 2021.
Under the proposal, the permanent staff of the General Assembly would develop boundaries for state House and Senate districts and for the state’s 13 seats in the U.S. House. Census-population numbers not favoring either political party or protecting incumbents would determine the boundaries.
Following a series of public hearings, maps would be released before April 1 of a redistricting year. Lawmakers in both chambers would take a flat up or down vote. If a map is rejected, it would go back to the drawing board and staff would have two more opportunities to create approved maps. If those fail, legislators would draw the maps.
We agree with House Majority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, who said that an independent group drawing the districts “cannot take out all politics but it can take out the most egregious forms of it.”
Although the bill would have no affect on this round of redistricting, the state Senate needs to act on this now to restore fairness to the process and end the bickering for good.