Just days before Republican leaders’ maps go on trial before the state supreme court, a broad swath of voters across the state say they support changing the way North Carolina’s leaders draw election districts. According to new polling from Carolina Forward, a whopping 55% of voters want the state to adopt an independent redistricting commission, while just less than a quarter support keeping the system in place today:
It’s hard to overstate how widespread opposition to gerrymandering is among North Carolina’s voters. Support for an independent redistricting commission crosses party, racial and regional boundaries like very few other issues do. A majority of almost every voter cohort supports adopting an independent commission; the proposal even commands net positive support among Republican voters.
These results are strongly consistent with earlier findings about the perceived fairness of redistricting maps drawn by Republican leaders. When asked, barely 1 in 5 voters across the state had confidence in the new maps’ fairness. Even among Republican voters, only 1 in 3 said they believed the maps were “mostly fair:”
The 2021 redistricting process featured great lengths of political theater meant to disguise a bluntly partisan power-grab. After staging “public input” sessions across the state, Republican leaders took little or none of the public input offered into account when designing maps; at times, they deliberately twisted and misrepresented public input to support conclusions that were the opposite of what was intended.
It was only at trial, and under oath, that the public learned some of the lengths Republican leaders had gone to in order to obfuscate and conceal their intentions:
At trial, Republicans admitted that they had first drawn “concept maps” in private, with undisclosed criteria, and only then copied them over in public to give the illusion of transparency.
Rep. Destin Hall (Republican from Caldwell county) lied point-blank on the House floor when asked about this exact point by Rep. Marcia Morey (Democrat from Durham).
Republican attorney Dylan Reel, a former staffer to notorious Republican ex-House Rules Chairman, and now convicted felon, David Lewis, helped design those concept maps, and then promptly destroyed the evidence. (Reel has since moved on to a lucrative new job at McGuireWoods, a prominent lobbyist.)
These are plainly not the signs of a functional redistricting process that serves the people of North Carolina.
Yet above and beyond how the maps were drawn, we see proof of a broken process in the maps it produced. Even a cursory glance at the State House, State Senate and Congressional maps reveals a clear attempt by its designers to lock in Republican advantage. That result has little or nothing to do with the geographic distribution of Democratic-leaning voters around the state. In fact, it is trivially easy to design maps that produce a balance of power approximately resembling the actual breakdown of voters’ wishes - which is just about evenly divided. Many have done so.
This is one reason why independent, expert organizations like the Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave each map an “F” - for “Significant Republican Advantage.”
What Is At Stake
This Wednesday, the North Carolina Supreme Court will hear legal arguments over whether the latest Republican gerrymander of North Carolina violates the state constitution.
There is no longer any serious dispute over whether Republican leaders have drawn aggressively partisan election maps that make it extremely difficult for Democrats to win political representation commensurate with their voter support. The question, rather, is simply whether doing so is permissible under the North Carolina state constitution. This comes down to not just the letter of our law, but also its spirit.
“Partisan gerrymandering distorts our democracy and violates our constitution. North Carolina's constitution guarantees that people are sovereign and our elections are free. That's why voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around. I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will return the power to the people by clarifying that our constitution prohibits partisan gerrymandering.”
We implore the North Carolina Supreme Court to affirm the principle of free and fair elections in which all voters have an equal opportunity to translate their collective choices into commensurate governance. This is a definitional requirement for a republican form of government - and the very least that North Carolinians deserve.