In a strongly worded piece in Sunday’s Charlotte Observer, Taylor Batten, editor of the newspaper’s editorial board, calls for the North Carolina Legislature to approve of identical bills that are floating around the state’s House of Representatives and Senate. Batten artfully describes the process in terms that those unfamiliar with redistricting can relate to:
You might think that who gets elected to Congress and the state legislature is decided mostly by where candidates stand on issues, or how much money they have, or how charismatic they are on the campaign trail.
Those all play a part, but there’s another factor bigger than all three combined: how the district maps are drawn. If the boundaries are drawn to make a district heavily Democratic, the second coming of Ronald Reagan couldn’t get elected there. In any sport, the rules of the game determine who succeeds. In the sport of politics, no one is as powerful as the referees who draw the maps.
But here’s the catch: in this game, the referees are the very players whose future is at stake. It’s the politicians in the legislature who draw the lines, and so heavily influence who controls the House and Senate and N.C. delegation to Congress for the next decade.