A coalition of different policy groups gathered at the legislature on Wednesday for a lobby day centered on what they called nonpartisan redistricting reform.
The group gathered to let legislators know that they support a plan to install redistricting that, advocates said, doesn’t lead to years of court battles, and also citizens feeling that their votes were made to count less by creative map drawing.
Following up the lobby day was a rally on the Bicentennial Plaza, attended by abu0t 150 people Wednesday afternoon.
The lobby day was the kickoff event for a two-day seminar to begin Thursday at Duke University, hosted by the national wing of Common Cause.
Opening the rally was Jane Pinsky, of the NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform.
“I’m not going to let anybody take away our voice by gerrymandering districts and making it impossible for us to be represented,” she said. “The coalition spans the political spectrum in North Carolina, we stand with Common Cause, to AARP, to the John Locke Foundation, to the League of Women Voters, to NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League), to Carolina Jews for Justice and a bunch of other people. What is important here, while you may not agree with all the issues, the one we agree on is that citizens should have the right to choose their elected officials, not elected officials picking us.”
Following Pinsky was Democracy NC Campaign Director Marcus Bass who rallied the crowd with chants and calls against what he called “Computerized Apartheid.”
“We have been painted into corners, we have been sequestered into districts, and our vote has been marginalized for far too long,” he said. “In recent news we have heard the courts describe this process as ‘done with surgical precision.’ Surgical precision? Now I don’t know how many doctors are in [the legislature] behind me but I would not want anybody performing surgery on me the way they’re performing surgery on these maps in North Carolina.”
Bass said that the coalition wants a public process to discuss how to end what he called gerrymandering and a public hearing on the most recent redistricting.
Following Bass was an unlikely bedfellow, Mitch Kokai, director of communications for the John Locke Foundation.
John Locke is a conservative policy think tank that is often at odds with groups such as Democracy NC, but not on the issue of nonpartisan redistricting.
Kokai said the John Locke Foundation has been advocating for redistricting reform since the 1990s and had hoped that, after the 2010 landslide victories for Republicans in the House and Senate, something would be done about the process.
“In 2010 when Republicans got the historic victories and won both the House and the Senate, the time seemed right to come in and change the process … but that did not happen,” he said. “Even though we like many of the policies that are being enacted, what we don’t like is how the elected officials choose their voters rather than having the voters choose their elected officials.”
Kokai said that, outside of the argument about whether the most recent redistricting was constitutional or not, it was done through a process that needs to be changed.
“We should have some good rules in place to prevent the lawmakers from drawing districts and engaging in map-making mischief that limits the opportunity for people to have the choices that they would like to have,” he said.