by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
In his recent commentary in Carolina Journal, political analyst John Hood recounts the history of gerrymandering in North Carolina. Hood writes:
Centuries ago, when legislative seats were apportioned by county rather than by population, the then-dominant politicians of Northeastern North Carolina maximized the number of counties along the coast while only grudgingly dividing the massive counties of the Piedmont and West into smaller jurisdictions.
Come 2001, legislators took this to a whole new level in North Carolina:
North Carolina Democrats held the General Assembly after the 2000 elections, as they had for nearly all of the state’s history. During the ensuing 2001 session, top lawmakers, Democratic consultants, and progressive activists devised a set of gerrymanders that would have guaranteed Democratic control of both legislative chambers for years to come.
Post 2001, the Republicans won a court case striking down the gerrymandered maps due to specific provisions of the constitution which required districts to respect county boundaries. Despite this, Hood remarks:
[I]t was still possible, respecting the Stephenson decision, for the party in power to draw favorable electoral maps. As the 2010 elections approached, Democrats should have adopted redistricting reform as a precaution against Republican victory and subsequent line-drawing. They didn’t, to their political detriment.
Since then, Republicans have drawn maps to their favor. Hood recommends placing “firm limits on gerrymandering while also enacting, by statute, a process for drawing maps based on transparency and fairness.” He writes:
There’s no perfect way to draw electoral districts. But surely we can do better than the current system and the incessant political and legal strife it produces. The rules should be clear. They should restore voters as the ultimate sovereign. And as much as possible, they should be placed directly in the constitution. Let’s not do another decade of this. Let’s do something else.