District maps press conference

Rep. Robert Reives, D-Chatham, and advocates from Common Cause hold a press conference the first day of the district remapping.

 

 

Plaintiffs in the North Carolina gerrymandering lawsuit vowed to keep a watchful eye on lawmakers while they redraw legislative district maps over the next two weeks.

Residents and advocates who won the case said during a press conference Monday, ahead of the first redistricting meeting since a court ordered the redrawing of the maps, that the court ruling is just the beginning of a battle for fair governing.

Derrick Miller, North Carolina resident and a plaintiff in the case, said it is time to put pressure on government.

“These politicians have to draw fair maps for us for 2020,” he said at the press conference at the state’s capitol. “Now it’s time for us to bedevil politicians a little bit. If they can’t win a fair fight, if they can’t win on an even playing field, then they deserve to lose their elections. Just like they lost this court case.”

The three-judge panel found the current legislative maps unconstitutional and ordered lawmakers to redraw boundaries in more than 20 counties. The lawsuit was filed by the nonprofit Common Cause, which consists of 37 residents like Miller, and the North Carolina Democratic Party.

Members of the House Select Committee on Redistricting and Senate Committee on Redistricting will meet Monday to start the process. They have until Sept.18 to complete the maps, which were ordered to be drawn in “full public view."

Stanton Jones, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the court’s ruling makes partisan gerrymandering illegal in North Carolina, however; government oversight does end with the ruling.

“It marks the beginning of the important next chapter,” he said. “All the map-drawing work must be done at public hearings where all legislators and interested members of the public could come and observe the computer screen where the map is being drawn … so that we the people can see as the district lines are being constructed so that we can ensure it's being done in a way that’s fair.”

The North Carolina superior court found that the legislative maps, drawn in 2017, grouped voters in districts based on their partisan support.

Stanton told reporters that he believes the process will decrease the chances of gerrymandering occurring again. There is also a court-appointed referee that would offer another level of oversight.

Jane Pinsky, director of the NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, said the ruling is just a “short-term fix.” 

The court’s decision, according to Pinksy, does not secure a precedent for map drawing in the future. 

Pinsky said her organization would continue to work with lawmakers on a process for permanent involvement of citizens.

“We hope the legislature would get the message and begin to come up with a process that we could use in 2021, 2031, 2041 or whatever.”

Staff Writer

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.