Chris Fitzsimon (left) and John Hood speak in favor of redistricting reform on Wednesday.
John Hood, head of the conservative John Locke Foundation, joined Chris Fitzsimon, director of the progressive NC Policy Watch, on Wednesday to make the case for changing the way voting maps are drawn in North Carolina.
Speaking before the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, the political odd couple noted that they seldom agree on policy, but both are longtime supporters of making the redistricting process less partisan.
“It has me saying the unusual sentence of, ‘John Hood is right,’ which I think I say about once every five years, but it’s always about this issue,” Fitzsimon joked.
Under North Carolina’s current system, state lawmakers are tasked with redrawing congressional and legislative voting maps after each 10-year census in order to account for population shifts.
But Hood and Fitzsimon say having partisan politicians in charge of the redistricting process creates a conflict of interest and results in districts skewed to favor one party or the other.
“In November, for more than half the people in North Carolina, the decision of who’s going to represent them in the General Assembly has already been made,” Fitzsimon said.
The two men noted that gerrymandered districts have been drawn by both political parties when in the majority.
“Both sides are capable of rationalizing self-interested behavior. But there is a self-interest argument for redistricting reform, too,” Hood said.
He noted how Democrats, who controlled the redistricting process for a century, were largely blindsided by a Republican sweep in the 2010 elections that put the GOP in charge of the most recent round of map-drawing.
Hood said with no one sure of who will hold a legislative majority for the next installment of redistricting, passing a reform in the near future could serve as an insurance policy of sorts for lawmakers.
“You never really know who’s going to draw the maps. Who’s going to win control of the General Assembly in 2020? We really have no idea,” Hood said.
A bill passed by the Republican-led N.C. House in 2011 with broad bipartisan support would have given redistricting authority to nonpartisan legislative staff, but the measure stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate.
However, Hood believes lawmakers might be open to revisiting redistricting reform in the 2015 session.
“We are cautiously optimistic that there’s an opportunity to make this case to the legislature starting next year,” Hood said.
Full video of Wednesday’s redistricting reform discussion can be seen below:
For more on redistricting reform, visit EndGerrymanderingNow.org