Supreme Court: Redistricting commissions acceptable

| June 30, 2015

k5408016by John Wynne, Politics NC, June 29, 2015.

Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court keeps hope alive for a nonpartisan redistricting commission here in North Carolina. The question before the Court was whether or not the legislature could delegate drawing districts to commissions, or if that power resided solely with them. In what was probably a good thing for Republicans, the Court said redistricting commissions are A-OK (while striking down commissions would have helped Republicans reshape districts in Arizona, Democrats in California would have been more than willing to return the favor, drawing a number of GOPers out of their seats).

Striking down independent commissions would have given North Carolina Republicans cover for continuing to keep redistricting power in their hands. Now, Democrats can argue there’s no excuse for the state not to have an independent redistricting commission in place by 2020. The problem? That would mean politicians voluntarily ceding power, and that’s not likely to happen.

In addition, some Republicans privately feel that Democrats had over a century to gerrymander the state for themselves. Why should they change the rules of the game just because Democrats have had a sudden change of heart about gerrymandering just as the GOP has taken the reigns of power?

To this, advocates of a redistricting commission argue: you don’t know who’s going to be in control in 2020. If it’s the Democrats, you better believe Republicans will regret not taking redistricting out of the hands of the legislature – just as Democrats are kicking themselves now for now following through with independent redistricting in the past.

The problem with that is we have pretty good reason to believe that Republicans will still be in control in time for the 2020s redistricting. That’s because, you guessed it – the legislators in charge of such a process will have been elected from districts drawn by Republicans. The chance of Democrats taking back the General Assembly in 2020 looks just as likely as their chance of doing so next year: very, very unlikely. Democrats aren’t even aiming at majorities. Instead, they just want to eliminate the supermajorities.

Because of this, a lot of Democrats concede there’s not much chance of an independent commission in place for 2020. Instead, they’re trying to get enough Republicans on board to support implementation of a commission in 2030. By that time, partisan control of the state will be much more of a question mark, and very few currently-serving legislators will still be around then. With the date being so far away, they hope that the GOP will accept a nonpartisan commission on its merits. And the gerrymandering problem will be solved.

Of course, if you’re a Republican legislator, there is no gerrymandering problem, and therefore not much of an incentive to solve it. Whether it’s implemented in 2021 or 2031, the prospect of the General Assembly passing redistricting reform looks quite bleak.

Category: NC SPIN Perspectives - Opinions from NC Leaders & Organizations

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  1. Richard L Bunce says:

    As long as humans are involved there will be gerrymandering… the solution is to remove human involvement and limit the inputs to the computer algorithms to just number of districts, area to be divided, population distribution in the area, and perhaps County lines. No other demographic data allowed. Here is an example.