RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A food truck parked outside the North Carolina legislative building on Thursday served up a free lunch with a message for state leaders.
Gerry’s Partisan Pizza made a one-day appearance to highlight concerns about gerrymandering, as legislators continue the process of redrawing the state’s electoral districts for next year’s elections.
People received pieces of pizza sliced in the shape of the state’s congressional districts, meant to highlight the ways politicians sort voters into unusual-looking districts, often to get a desired outcome on Election Day.
“That’s how gerrymandering works. It lets politicians pick their voters and their constituents based on where they live,” said James Pearce, state organizing manager of RepresentUs, a non-partisan group aimed at combatting government corruption.
Due to population growth, North Carolina is gaining a 14th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives at a time when Republicans are looking to retake control of Congress.
In North Carolina, because Republicans control the General Assembly, they control the process of redrawing the districts.
The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, which has been analyzing their proposals, graded them from C to F based on areas like fairness and competitiveness.
One proposed map would split largely Democratic Mecklenburg County into four districts and Wake County into three.
“And, when you have situations like that where cities are cracked, as we call that, it’s really diluting the vote there and you’re gonna end up with representatives who don’t have to listen to the people who live in those cities,” Pearce said. “And, that’s really the impact gerrymandering has, is it gives us representatives who feel like they don’t have to respond to their entire constituency. And, they don’t have to earn people’s votes.”
Former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker pointed out gerrymandering has occurred for decades, with both parties taking advantage of the redistricting process when they’ve been in power.
“I live in a district that has over 80 percent performance in the general election for one party. They’re not close races at all,” he said. “We simply need to have districts that are actually competitive so people can choose their representatives instead of representatives choosing them through gerrymandering.”
Republicans in the legislature defended their process after a series of public hearings this week when most speakers criticized them for proposing maps that would give them a significant advantage in winning congressional seats and retaining control of the General Assembly.
“Our criteria prohibits the use of election data. We’re only looking at counties. We’re looking at trying to keep counties whole, municipalities whole. We’re trying to keep precincts whole,” said Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell), who is leading the redistricting effort in the state House. “What we’re trying to do is have the most transparent process in the history of this state, which we have done. We have voluntarily decided not to use election data. But, we know national Democrats have employed a strategy of ‘sue till blue.’”
Some proposed Congressional maps Republicans have released include a potential district centered around Cleveland County, home of state House Speaker Tim Moore (R).
When we asked if he’s planning to run for Congress, Moore said, “I just want to see us get through the redistricting process.”
“How districts are drawn, how they end up after litigation that will likely happen, there’s no sure things in any of this. And, I can tell you this, I haven’t decided what I’m going to do,” he said.