Under the Dome

NC House members file redistricting bill to ban 'irregularly shaped' boundaries

This post has been corrected to show that a separate redistricting bill from Sen. Jeff Jackson and Rep. Charles Jeter has already been filed.

A bipartisan group of N.C. House members filed the second of two proposals Monday to create a nonpartisan redistricting process.

House Bill 92 would be modeled on an Iowa plan that lets lawmakers vote on redistricting proposals drafted by legislative staffers. It would take effect for the next round of redistricting, after the 2020 U.S. Census.

The group Common Cause North Carolina, which advocates for election reforms, is pushing for the bill. “For decades, North Carolina’s flawed redistricting system has resulted in gerrymandered districts that deprive voters of having a real voice in their elections,” executive director Bob Phillips said in a statement Tuesday. “We applaud these Republican and Democratic lawmakers for working together to pass reform that would protect the fundamental right of voters to choose their representatives.”

The bill aims to eliminate oddly shaped districts designed to strongly favor one political party, and it addresses the shapes of districts. “Districts shall be reasonably compact in form, to the extent consistent with the standards established by this section,” the legislation says. “In general, reasonably compact districts are those which are square, rectangular, or hexagonal in shape, and not irregularly shaped, to the extent of natural or political boundaries.”

A similar bill passed the House in 2011 but didn’t get support in the Senate. Rep. Paul Stam, an Apex Republican, has co-sponsored redistricting legislation for more than a decade. He’s joined this year by Democratic Rep. Grier Martin of Raleigh and Republican Reps. Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville and Jon Hardister of Greensboro.

Senate leaders have already said they won’t support the legislation. Democratic Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte and GOP Rep. Charles Jeter of Huntersville have proposed a separate bill that would delay the nonpartisan district drawing until 2031. That bill is awaiting a hearing from the House elections committee, and a companion Senate bill has been sent to the ways and means committee.