The Tea: Bring Back House Bill 69


Tommy Mozier, Senior Reporter

Each week, it seems I’m writing about something rotten within our state legislature or misuse of power by the ruling party. However, this week’s episode of rotten governance by the North Carolina General Assembly is emblematic of a much larger problem.

The new electoral maps drawn by the state legislature once again, unsurprisingly, favor Republicans. Although less biased than previous maps, Sam Wang, a gerrymandering expert from Princeton University, told The News & Observer the maps still contain “some partisanship.”

This is because politicians cannot draw their own voting districts without some bias. The primary goal of a representative is to get re-elected and they conduct themselves with that in mind.  Partisanship aside, self-interest dictates that a legislative body cannot reasonably draw a map that impacts their own job security.

The concept goes back to America’s founding. In “Federalist No. 10,” James Madison warned: “No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity.”

For this reason, outspoken Charlotte Democratic Sen. Jeff Jackson voted against the new maps. Although he told The News & Observer it was the fairest process resulting in the fairest maps North Carolina has seen in his lifetime, Jackson does not believe politicians should draw legislative maps on principle.

Instead, maps should be drawn by an independent commission of non-elected officials. Eight states already have them. The Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan law and public policy institute based in New York City, found non-partisan redistricting commissions are effective in limiting abuses of power and improving outcomes for voters, “but only if commissions are carefully designed and structured to promote independence and incentivize discussion and compromise.”

The NCGA floated this idea in February, introducing bipartisan House Bill 69 to create an 11-member nonpartisan redistricting commission. It didn’t last long. The bill was assigned to the Redistricting Committee Feb. 14 and disappeared, dying in the committee stage like the majority of bills. 

Redistricting committees exist to check the partisan and personal bias of legislatures. Although Madison warned against self-interest in theory, the NCGA has shown the damage it can do in practicality.

North Carolinians need people unconcerned with keeping their legislative jobs drawing voting districts. As much as politicians say they can put personal goals aside for a common cause, human nature suggests otherwise. It’s the reason the United States has checks and balances built into government. North Carolina needs to build one more check.