Facing South
Facing South

North Carolina sticks out on national stage -- for suspicions of gerrymandering

By Sarah Ovaska, NC Policy Watch

This post, up over at Governing magazine, takes a look at a recent study by a geospatial software firm that found that North Carolina has some of the oddest looking Congressional districts around.

Azavea, the geospatial software firm mentioned above, didn't come right out and say that districts were gerrymandered, a bit of a loaded term, but instead examined the districts to see how geographically compact the states were.

North Carolina found itself leading the pack, with some of the least compact and spread out Congressional districts in the country. Only Louisiana, Hawaii, and Maryland topped us in having funny-shaped, geographically spread out districts, according to the Azavea analyst.

The Governing post is a bit wonky -- as one would expect -- but highlights how crazy-shaped these districts can get by showing two districts linking North Carolina’s urban populations.

Here in North Carolina, the redistricting process is carried out by the state legislature and was and has always been one of the most politically contentious things the legislature does, no matter which party controls the General Assembly.

In other states, there's been attempts to take politics out of the equation, or at least tamper it down, by having non-partisan panels or courts develop the maps instead of elected state lawmakers.

The Azavea study found that states that take an approach like North Carolina end up with less-compact districts while the independently-drawn districts tend to be more compact.

It's a point that Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith made in his new book, "Who Stole the American Dream," and one he brought up Tuesday when he spoke in Raleigh at a N.C. Policy Watch's Crucial Conversation luncheon. (Click here for video of Smith’s talk.)

From Smith’s talk in Raleigh:

We now have a political apportionment system which is now run by the politicians which is gerrymandering Congressional and legislative districts so that there are safe Democrats and safe Republican districts. You put either party in power and they work it to their advantage.

Why is that a bad thing? Smith goes on, and explains that he thinks it's what caused the eradication of political moderates in politics.

You'd be better off having competitive districts and politicians would have to appeal to the middle.

So, do you agree with Smith? Disagree? Tell us.

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Double standard?

It seems as though there is a double standard when it comes to the reporting of gerrymandered districts. Why didn't those blatantly gerrymandered districts "stick out" when they were drawn by the Democrats? The Republicans used the sorry excuse that "they (dems) did it first..." as justification for doing exactly what they said they were against when the other party did the same thing.
One sided reporting on things like this only helps to perpetuate this kind of cycle of partisan political maneuvering where at the expense of everyone else. They All should be called out.

H.Smith on gerrymandering

Hedrick Smith is an idiot on this question.
"Functionally compact" (as opposed to geographically compact) districts ARE BETTER. "Non-competitive" districts ARE BETTER. A district that splits 51-49 guarantees that 49% of its residents will be mis-represented losers, NO MATTER WHAT. The problem is not that districts are "safe". The problem is that most Democratic voters in North Carolina DON'T LIVE in one of these 3 safe districts. It is obvious that a "fair" division of the state's 13 congressional districts would be 7-6. When the Democrats were in power, it was 8-5. If the Republicans had simply drawn themselves a map that was 5-8, turnabout would have been fair play. But they drew one that was 10-3. Smith's claim that "you put either party in power" is nonsensical in the context of BOTH parties having safe districts. The party in power is the party WITH THE MAJORITY (in this case, the Republicans). THAT is who you have to attack, if power is being wielded wrongly.

Hedrick Smith brings reason

Hedrick Smith brings reason and intelligence to an emotionally charged discussion. Where do we sign-up for this movement to bring real change to the system.

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