Gerrymandering: The next ice bucket challenge?

Published September 5, 2014

By Tom Campbell

by Tom Campbell, Executive Producer and Moderator, NC SPIN, September 5, 2014.

Whoever came up with the ALS Ice Bucket challenge deserves to be enshrined in the Marketing Hall of Fame. It accomplished the dual purpose of focusing attention on Lou Gehrig’s disease while also raising millions of dollars for finding a cure. It caused us to ponder how we might employ a similar strategy in this year’s elections.

Our thoughts first turned to the recent lengthy, unpleasant and less-than-satisfying session of our General Assembly. While many changes could be advised, one of the top items on my bucket list is to institute a fair and impartial redistricting process. Our legislators enact laws that affect every person in North Carolina and it behooves us to have the best people, selected through competitive and fair elections, making those decisions. Sadly, that isn’t the case today. Too many elections are over before votes are cast.

50 of the 170 seats of our legislature were automatically won when the filing deadline for the 2015-16 session ended. 79 are uncontested in November; fewer than 20 are considered truly competitive. Why so little competition? The answer is simple: gerrymandered legislative districts that give one political party or the other overwhelming odds to win election. The incumbent or the nominee of that gerrymandered party seldom faces any stiff opposition. We are considered one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation.

We are required to redraw Congressional and legislative districts following the results of the census conducted every ten years. Like the scenario where the inmates run the asylum our lawmakers, the very people who stand to benefit most from those districts, are the ones drawing the maps.

For decades Republicans bemoaned this practice when Democrats controlled the legislature and drew the maps to their advantage. Now Republicans are in charge and have conveniently forgotten their great opposition to the process, taking gerrymandering to heights the Democrats never even dreamed possible. But what was a bad idea before remains a blight on our electoral process today.

Republicans will have ten years to get retribution for all the years of perceived injustices about which they complained so vehemently. But enough is enough, as former Charlotte Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Richard Vinroot and former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker decided. Last spring they formed an organization named “North Carolinians to End Gerrymandering Now” in an effort to end partisan redistricting. Others, including the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, former legislators, and a whole congregation of groups and individuals throughout the state have concurred. About the only folks not on the bandwagon are the very ones who can do something about it, the Republican majority in both the House and Senate.

So something is needed to change this, to make this a front-burner election issue, something that will cause a land swell of public opinion to be literally poured on those running for our legislature. We need a marketing ploy as ingenious and effective as the ice bucket challenge…something that will energize voters to demand that legislative candidates pledge to vote for an independent redistricting commission or those candidates will get the proverbial bucket.

What’s your suggestion? Let this paper or website know. It is imperative to once and for all inaugurate a fairer redistricting process in advance of the next census.

September 5, 2014 at 7:45 pm
Norm Kelly says:

The problem existed for years. Demoncrats were deaf to the calls for change. Perhaps because they benefited from the process.

The Republicans are in charge now. Partially because of a new census. Partially because enough residents voted for change because we didn't like the direction the socialists were taking us. The Republicans are in control of gerry for now. I say, let the Republicans be in charge of gerry for one more census cycle. After the next census cycle is done, the gerry process is complete, the Republicans have had their stab at redistricting to protect themselves in elected office, then and only then should gerry be thrown out the window.

This will have given the demon party DECADES of control of gerry, and 2 cycles (roughly) controlling gerry. This isn't even close to a fair solution, but at least it gives Republicans SOME control of gerry, even if it's completely out of whack with how much the demons got to control gerry. So, what's wrong with giving the Republicans a little time to play around with gerry before we make a change? And how do we know the feds will even allow us to leave gerry to third party control? It's not like the central planners have shown ANY interest in keeping voting districts fair, logical, concise, or anything else!

I say, let gerry hang around 1 more cycle. Then we'll see.

Wanna bet that if the demons take control of Raleigh before the next census cycle, they completely forget about walking gerry off the nearest short pier? I'll believe the demons are serious about pitching gerry when I actually see it happen. And NOT a moment before!