North Carolina is rapidly changing. What was once a solidly blue state is now a deep shade of purple, and both parties are able to compete for control of government.
We have experienced an explosion of growth, becoming the ninth most populous state. North Carolina is virtually dividing into two states: One is urban, younger and more likely to move from one to place another and a second is more rural, older and less mobile.
Our state is becoming more racially diverse. We have a booming Hispanic population, and areas that were once heavily white are seeing an increase in African-American residents. Nearly half of North Carolina’s residents today were born elsewhere. This influx of voters from outside the state is going to make it much more difficult to look to past election results for guidance on what lies ahead for Tar Heel politics.
All of the dramatic changes in our demographics mean North Carolina today is not the place it was 10 years ago, and it will very likely be quite different a decade hence. These unprecedented shifts also mean it’s nearly impossible to know which party will hold a majority of seats in the General Assembly when the next rounds of redistricting arrive in 2021 and 2031, making it all the more important for both Republicans and Democrats to pass an insurance policy of sorts in the form of independent redistricting.
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Under North Carolina’s once-a-decade redistricting process, whichever party controls the General Assembly gets to redraw our state’s congressional and legislative voting maps. In theory, redistricting should ensure fair districts and uphold the principle of “one person, one vote.” Unfortunately, for about as long as our country has existed, political parties have instead tried to use redistricting to benefit their own interests.
It seems like common sense that the politicians who have the most to gain or lose based on how voting maps are drawn should not be the ones in charge of drawing those maps. It would make a whole lot more sense to give redistricting responsibility to an independent body.
Earlier this year, Republican and Democratic members in the N.C. House jointly introduced a plan that would do that. House Bill 92 would take the map-drawing power out of the hands of partisan legislators and give it to nonpartisan legislative staff. The measure has broad, bipartisan support with 63 N.C. House members co-sponsoring the bill – a majority.
We believe House Bill 92 is an effective solution to partisan redistricting, but we are open to any system that will create fair and impartial districts. It is the right thing to do, but it’s also the politically smart thing to do because over the next few decades nothing is guaranteed.
We urge members in both houses to act soon. With so much uncertainty ahead for North Carolina’s elections, the seat they save may be their own.
Thomas Bradshaw Jr.
Former Democratic mayor, Raleigh
Former Republican mayor, Charlotte
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the issue.