This is a safe space, right? Because I have a confession to make…
Before last year, I generally knew what gerrymandering was and I knew it was a word thrown around when talking about North Carolina politics, but I had no idea it was happening so blatantly in my own back yard. I know, what rock was I living under? Or maybe you were my neighbor under the rock next door? Either way, before November 8, 2016 I was blissfully and ignorantly living in my little liberal bubble, convinced like everyone else that Hillary and the Dems would win big and we’d all link arms and march forward together into a new and exciting world.
Well, at least I was right about one thing…it is a new world.
But sometimes a new world can force some eye-opening new discoveries about the old world and for me, one of those discoveries centers on gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering has been happening in North Carolina for decades and yes, was a tactic used by both political parties. However, in 2013 gerrymandering took on a different form after SCOTUS ruled in Shelby County v Holder. Prior to that case, NC fell under Section 5 of the Voter Rights Act of 1965, which mandated that states and counties with histories of civil rights abuses must receive SCOTUS approval before changing any voting laws. Shelby Co. v Holder overruled that statute and within a week the NCGA passed a “monster” voter suppression bill that was designed to do one thing…keep Democrats out of the NCGA.
Since then, NC has fallen into a downward spiral of racial gerrymandering, the effects of which we are dealing with and fighting against today.
Recently, SCOTUS came down with two rulings against gerrymandering in NC. One on the federal level and one on the state level, but both boiled down to the fact that you cannot allow race to be a dominant factor when drawing districts. For more information on the rulings check out Amy R. Worley’s informative post here.
What this says to me, a relative newbie in the fight against gerrymandering, is that there is hope. As Senator Jeff Jackson said on the latest “This Is What Democracy Looks Like” Facebook Live event, North Carolina is a 50/50 state and our votes and voice should reflect that. My hope is that one day soon, they will.
One of my biggest takeaways from their discussion? All votes matter even when the GOP supermajority thinks they shouldn’t…and there’s no better way to demonstrate this than by voting for representatives who support redistricting reform. But until we can get to the polls again (since we don’t know if there will be special elections this year), call and email your representative to ask them to support fair redistricting and one of the bills currently floating in the NCGA that speak to redistricting reform (SB209, HB674, and HB735 to name a few). You can also tell them to support Gov. Cooper’s call for a special session of the NCGA to redraw voting maps. Isn’t it time?
And while we may not be linking arms and walking into the sunset together as in my pre-election dreams, we can do our best to at least make sure we’re marching together into fairly drawn legislative districts.