As a Democrat and a Republican, a progressive and a conservative, we disagree about most things in politics. But we agree on one thing: gerrymandering is bad for North Carolina and bad for our nation.
We’re not alone. RepresentUs — a nationwide group of independents, progressives and conservatives fighting corruption in politics — recently did a poll of North Carolinians. The poll found that 90% of voters in the state oppose drawing voting districts to help one political party or certain politicians win elections.
Now the N.C. General Assembly is beginning another round of redistricting for congressional and legislative districts. You should pay attention because the new maps will have a lot to do with the decisions elected officials make about our future.
For many years, we fought on opposite sides of North Carolina’s political battles. Gary worked with Democrats like Gov. Jim Hunt and Sen. Terry Sanford. Carter worked for Republicans like Sen. Jesse Helms and President Ronald Reagan.
We helped our candidates make their case to the voters. We debated who was right and who was wrong. We gave the voters a choice.
Gerrymandering takes away your choice. Politicians — in both parties — manipulate the maps to protect themselves and their own power, not reflect the will of the people.
In the last 10 years, North Carolina had to redraw its districts three times because courts ruled that maps were unconstitutional due to racial or partisan gerrymandering. That meant continual and expensive litigation. It confused voters. And it makes all of us more cynical about politics and government.
Over the past month, N.C. House and Senate committees held public hearings where people could comment on the new districts that must be redrawn because of the 2020 Census. Overwhelmingly, voters made clear they want fair and competitive districts. They want to pick their representatives, not have politicians pick their voters.
The legislature should do what North Carolinians want. We agree with those who spoke up against gerrymandering at the hearings.
Gary wants Democrats to win elections. Carter wants Republicans to win. But we want our parties and candidates to win with their ideas and their character, not with dirty political tricks.
We agree that gerrymandering is a major problem that undermines the foundations of our democracy. We agree that districts shouldn’t be drawn to help one political party, no more than college basketball games should be rigged to favor one team. We agree every North Carolinian’s vote should count — Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike.
If you agree, make your voice heard. Go to https://www.ncleg.gov/requestforcomments/ so politicians will know what you think.
North Carolina has strong organizations leading the push for fair maps. RepresentUs has worked with the Princeton Electoral Innovation Lab to produce a Redistricting Report Card. The report card measures partisan fairness and competitiveness in districts. It looks for compact districts. It exposes any unfair gerrymandered congressional and legislative maps to the bright and healthy light of public scrutiny.
The two of us have had some bare-knuckled political fights over the years. We’re joining hands now to support nonpartisan organizations that are working for fair maps and more open government.
We all should work together so we all have an equal chance to be heard.
Gary Pearce and Carter Wrenn are long-time political consultants in North Carolina.