Skip to Main Content

Advocacy Angle: Lining up on the lines 

by Scott Mooneyham, League Advocacy Communications Specialist

Last summer, members of the League’s General Government Legislative Action Committee began hearing the case that League members should jump into the fight over reforming the process by which North Carolina draws its legislative and congressional district maps. It was not an easy question. Legislative and congressional redistricting, on its face, does not have a lot to do with municipal government and its responsibilities. Drawing district lines also is the most political thing that state legislators do, as it becomes so much about which political party holds power and the relative political safety of incumbent officeholders.

So, would having the League get involved harm the interests of cities and towns on the advocacy issues -- like municipal authority, revenue issues and infrastructure investment – that are so critical to cities’ vitality and ability to serve residents? And what was the upside for League members?

Members of the Legislative Action Committee, the League’s Board of Directors and then the League’s general membership ultimately decided that the answer to the first question was no. The League adopted as a legislative goal the creation of a nonpartisan redistricting process. One of the key reasons that League members came to the conclusion that they did: Changing how legislative and congressional maps are drawn is not a partisan issue; having legislators draw the maps that decide their own political fate favors one political party today but will favor another in some distant tomorrow.

Legislators of both parties recognize that fact, and bills filed recently at the General Assembly calling for the creation of an independent redistricting commission are sponsored by Republicans and Democrats.

"It’s about good government, it’s about the Golden Rule, treating others the way you want to be treated," said one of those bill sponsors, Rep. Jon Hardister of Greensboro.

Hardister’s comments came at a news conference in which he and other bill sponsors announced that the legislation would be coming. At that same news conference, League Board member and Morrisville Mayor Pro Tem Liz Johnson also spoke. She talked not so much about the effects on political parties and the political offices affected by the lines, but about how those lines can sometimes divide and weaken the political interests of a single municipality or a group of municipalities.

"Regardless of whether your political party is the one in power or the one out of power, having district lines drawn in ways that keep communities of interest intact is critical in effective representation," Mayor Pro Tem Johnson said.

These proposals for an independent redistricting process may not become law anytime soon, but the issue isn’t going to go away either. As long as the lines help define how we as individuals, and as groups with common interests, are represented, how our voices are heard, the discussions of how they are drawn will continue. The likelihood is that more and more people and advocacy groups will be drawn into those discussions.