Under the Dome

Statewide forums push for new redistricting rules

Ahead of the 2014 legislative session, an advocacy group is trying to build momentum to change how state lawmakers draw political districts.

The N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform is holding a series of town halls across the state to educate the public about the redistricting process. The group says the federal shutdown is an example of what happens when political boundaries are shaped by partisan intentions, creating districts where lawmakers feel safe about their re-election chances.

“I think people have been rocked on their heels by what's happened on the federal level,” said Jane Pinsky, the organizer. “There are 30 members of the U.S. House who are in districts that are so uncompetitive that they are not really accountable to anybody because of partisan gerrymandering.”

Pinsky’s group is pushing for an independent commission to set political boundaries during the redistricting process every 10 years as a way to reduce partisan implications. Under current rules, the political party in power at the N.C. General Assembly now sets the political districts for Congress and the legislature. In North Carolina, she said, only one of 13 U.S. House members faced a challenger who came within 7 percentage points. Eleven state House members also didn’t face stiff competition, she said.

The coalition held its first forum last week in Greensboro and drew 50 people. The next forum is Wednesday in Fayetteville. Others scheduled in coming weeks include Oct. 16 in Charlotte, Oct. 23 in Wilmington, Oct. 30 in Boone and Nov. 13 in Raleigh.

Pinksy said the goal is to get the public to push lawmakers to approve a bill in the 2014 legislative session to create the independent commission. In the prior 2011-2012 session, the state House approved such a measure but it died in the Senate.