Under the Dome

Dome: Study finds – surprise! – redistricting benefits majority party

May 5, 2013 

A study commissioned by a good-government group documents the unsurprising finding that redistricting in North Carolina has long been used by the party in power to disenfranchise voters who don’t support them.

The findings: In 1992, Democrats received 52 percent of the votes in the state House but took 67 percent of the seats. In the Senate, Democrats won 55 percent of the votes and held 78 percent of the seats.

Twenty years later, Republicans received 54 percent of the vote for House and hold 64 percent of the seats, while holding 66 percent of the Senate seats even though the vote was split 50-50.

The study was done by Larry King and Mark Nance for the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform.

And a poll by SurveyUSA for the N.C. Center for Voter Education released last week shows that 70 percent of North Carolinians think redistricting should be done by a nonpartisan professional legislative staff, the Coalition notes.

All this is meant to give a nudge to House Bill 606, introduced last month, that would create a system of nonpartisan map-drawing by an independent staff guided by three principles: keeping districts compact, contiguous and aligned with state and federal law.

Sixty-one Democratic and Republican House members have signed on to the bill.

Thorp has his say

Holden Thorp had some parting shots for UNC-Chapel Hill in a recent interview with local radio station WCHL.

The station reports host Jim Heavner asked the outgoing chancellor if he would change the governance process. Sounds like Thorp was just waiting to jump on that one, according to the station’s website:

“Oh yes I would,” Chancellor Thorp said. “I think we have the most complicated, convoluted governance system.

“I’m sure in 1971 when Mr. Friday devised the whole thing, it made perfect sense. But to have two governing boards, both politically appointed – and I don’t think there’s anything you can do about the fact that in a public university you’re going to have a politically appointed board – but to have two boards where there’s always debate and some confusion about where the authority lies makes it very, very hard figure out the right course of action.”

You can listen to the interview at chapelboro.com.

Judicial campaign funding

A new poll shows a majority of North Carolina voters favor the state’s current system of publicly financing the campaigns of candidates for state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

The survey, finding 68 percent favor the program and 23 percent oppose, comes amid warnings that last year’s multi-million-dollar campaign for Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby’s seat threatens to destroy the current campaign financing program. Newby won re-election over appellate Judge Sam Ervin IV with a huge infusion of outside money.

Statewide judicial candidates can accept public financing if they agree to spending limits and refuse political action committee and special interest money. But with the emergence of “super PACs,” which collect and spend money independent of candidates, those limits are meaningless.

State legislators are considering a bill to end the financing program, and to revert to making those races partisan.

Funding for the public financing comes from a $3 check-off option on state income tax forms, and through an attorneys’ surcharge.

“North Carolina’s innovate public financing program has been a proven success in reducing special interest influence and protecting the integrity of our courts,” said Brent Lourenz, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, which commission the poll.

Somewhere around $3 million was raised on behalf of Newby and Ervin, although the vast majority of it was for Newby.

Staff writer Craig Jarvis

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