Washington, D.C. — The National Democratic Redistricting Committee has serious concerns regarding HB140, a redistricting bill that has been proposed in the North Carolina General Assembly. Redistricting reform can be an effective path to fair maps, but not all reform is created equal. As currently written, HB140 provides insufficient transparency into the map-drawing process, does not provide enough protection to racial and language minority groups, and moves the state backwards with respect to providing fair representation to all North Carolinians.
“I have a great deal of reservations about North Carolina’s HB140 and believe that the North Carolina legislature should take a harder look at the details before moving forward with it,” said Eric H. Holder, Jr., the 82nd Attorney General of the United States and Chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. “The current proposal does little to improve the status quo and falls short in providing North Carolinians with the transparency, voter protection, and fair representation that they deserve. We can do more, and we should.
“As the court made clear this week, North Carolina’s redistricting process is clearly broken and has punished voters for years with an illegal, unfair map. Voters deserve redistricting reform that protects them from further gerrymandering designed to silence their voices. Simply put, HB140 is not the answer. North Carolinians deserve better than a half-hearted attempt that does not undo a broken political system in which politicians can pick their voters at will.”
- HB140 would vest the exclusive authority of drawing North Carolina’s redistricting plans with a partisan appointee. As currently drafted, HB140 would delegate the responsibility of actually drawing redistricting plans to the Legislative Services Office (LSO). This is not a sufficient means of ensuring a more fair process, nor does it comport with the bill’s characterization of a nonpartisan redistricting process. Though the LSO is supposed to be a nonpartisan entity, the head of the LSO is a partisan appointee who is deeply rooted in the political process and has unquestionable political relationships in the General Assembly. Moreover, transparency should be a chief component of good reform, yet the LSO is bound by fewer rules than the legislature with respect to providing the public with information about its deliberative process.
- HB140 would not provide sufficient protections to racial and language minority groups. As currently drafted, the bill is not in harmony with the decades-long efforts to afford minority voters a reasonable opportunity to elect representatives of their choosing. The bill fails to provide minority groups with needed protections against districting plans that have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote. It is critical that protections against discrimination on the basis of race not only prohibit against intentional discrimination, but also against districting plans which have the effect of curtailing minority voters’ right to meaningfully and fairly participate in the political process. Given the transparency concerns noted above, this is even more problematic. The bill would also prohibit the purposeful augmentation of minority voting strength. This language is particularly troubling given the state’s increasing minority population, and the requirements imposed on states by the Voting Rights Act.
- HB140 would allow districts to be drawn on a basis other than total population, moving the state backwards with respect to fair representation of all North Carolinians. The North Carolina Constitution currently requires that districts contain “as nearly as may be, an equal number of inhabitants.” But HB140, as currently drafted, would strike this language. Moving the state away from creating districts on the basis of total population would undermine the fair representation of North Carolina’s residents–all of whom are constituents of the General Assembly.