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NC Redistricting Case a Potential Landmark

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People rally to end gerrymandering as the U.S. Supreme Court hears the Wisconsin case, Gill vs. Whitford. (League of Women Voters/Flickr)
People rally to end gerrymandering as the U.S. Supreme Court hears the Wisconsin case, Gill vs. Whitford. (League of Women Voters/Flickr)
October 18, 2017

GREENSBORO, N.C. - A case being heard by the U.S. District Court in Greensboro this week could end the practice of gerrymandering for good.

The term has been part of North Carolina's public discourse for decades, with both major political parties guilty at one point of drawing districts to benefit them.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled racial gerrymandering unconstitutional earlier this year, but the status of drawing districts based on party affiliation still is nebulous. That may change with the outcome of Common Cause v. Rucho, said Bryan Warner, director of communications for the group Common Cause North Carolina.

"Partisan gerrymandering is kind of the last refuge of partisan politicians who are looking to manipulate our voting maps," he said. "If we can strike down partisan gerrymandering, alongside striking down racial gerrymandering, this could be a huge win for voters in North Carolina and around the nation."

Warner said the U.S. Supreme Court is considering a similar challenge in a case from Wisconsin.

House Bill 200, being considered in the State Assembly, would take redistricting power out of the hands of partisan lawmakers by giving it to an independent body. Warner said the overall goal is to protect the rights of individual voters.

"Gerrymandering has been around for a very long time," he said. "Both parties have done it here in North Carolina, and regardless of which party is doing the gerrymandering, voters suffer because when we have gerrymandered voting maps, the outcome of our elections is essentially decided before we even go to the polls."

A new standard for measuring partisan gerrymandering is known as the "efficiency gap." It's been a key factor in the U.S. Supreme Court case out of Wisconsin. Using this standard, Warner said, North Carolina is among several southern states with high degrees of partisan gerrymandering to benefit the Republican Party.

The text of HB 200 is online at ncleg.net and details of Common Cause v. Rucho are at commoncause.org.


Reporting by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the Park Foundation.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC