Cover Story: Is redistricting flawed?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A political tug of war - advantage Republicans.

The GOP will redraw the voting lines.  The Democrats say that's not fair.

The controversial process of redistricting and what, if anything, can be done to change it.

Ten years ago, then Lieutenant Governor Bev Perdue oversaw the North Carolina Senate.  It was the last time they redrew the state's voting boundaries.

The Democrats were in control.  And the party in charge gets to decide how the map is drawn.

Fast forward to today.

The Republicans are about to take charge for the first time in more than a century.  And they are eyeing that map.

Now, Governor Perdue says that process should be changed.

And she wants a bi-partisan panel to draw the map from now on.

Republicans called for independent commissions to redraw the voting boundaries when they didn't have a say in those boundaries and Democrats said no.  And now that Democrats will soon be out of power, Democrats are calling for reform.

You remember filling out the Census this spring.

Well when Uncle Sam counts where were all live it's then up to state lawmakers to draw district boundaries where there are an equal number of people living.

These become the districts for the state legislature and Congress.

The party in power in the legislature gets to do the drawing.  And they can draw districts which favor them.  And that lasts for the next 10 years.

Now after last month's elections voters decided to give Republicans a shot at power and along with that comes drawing the boundary lines.

Enter Gov. Perdue Wednesday with a plan to change that.

"I ask you to help me transform North Carolina's government and services as we also transform the way this body works. An opportunity to make a real difference.  An opportunity to solidify North Carolina's progress," she said.

In a rare appearance before Republicans in the North Carolina House the governor called for creating a special commission to handle redistricting next year.

She said an independent redistricting commission would "protect the rights of all our people" and end "unfair partisan politics that has plagued North Carolina redistricting in the past."

Republicans aren't buying it.

"This is posturing," said state senator Bob Rucho, Republican of Mecklenburg county.  "This is nothing more than the fact that she now recognizes that they're no longer able to draw districts nor will they be able to control it."

Why such a big deal over who gets to draw the voting districts?

The party in power can twist and shift the lines so that the districts will have more registered voters of one particular party - thereby enabling their party's candidate a better shot at getting elected.

As far as Perdue's proposal for an independent commission to do redistricting incoming House Speaker Thom Tillis doubts whether there's enough time to do it this round and still adjourn the legislature on time.

An independent commission could conceivable take the politics out of redistricting, but who appoints the independent commission?

If it's only the governor, question critics, can it be independent?  Doesn't it then become political, they say.

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