Op-ed: Why we need to ban partisan gerrymandering once and for all

Bill would end gerrymandering

Us. Rep. Wiley Nickel, who represents parts of Wake County, spoke about his bill to end gerrymandering this month in Raleigh. (Photo by Michael McElroy/Cardinal and Pine)

By Wiley Nickel

April 22, 2024

Some legislatures draw election maps that empower their favored voters and disenfranchise those on the other side. The “Fair Maps Act,” Congressman Wiley Nickel writes, would end gerrymandering by taking politicians out of the electoral maps process.

In North Carolina and across the country, politicians have used partisan gerrymandering to manipulate electoral outcomes with almost surgical precision. This leads to hyperpartisanship, squashes trust in government, and disenfranchises voters.

Imagine the frustration of North Carolinians who have witnessed their district lines – and their representation – change a staggering four times in the last decade, all because of gerrymandering by the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA). The courts have had to intervene, throwing out the gerrymandered electoral maps drawn by the NCGA three times in the last decade; in 2016, 2019, and 2021.

We recently had a brief moment of relief. In the last election, North Carolina voters sent seven Democrats and seven Republicans to the United States Congress under fair, court-drawn maps that accurately represented our 50/50 state. North Carolina’s 13th District, which I’m proud to represent in Congress, is a true swing district.

In 2023, our constituents suffered yet another unprecedented redraw, resulting in yet another partisan gerrymander. Let’s be clear: This was Republican legislators hand-picking their own voters to rig the system and predetermine the outcome of our elections before they even happen. With surgical precision, they split up communities of color and drew a map guaranteed to elect 10 or 11 Republicans out of 14 seats in Congress. That’s 71% to 79% of the Congressional seats. The courts are once again litigating these maps.

This story isn’t unique to North Carolina, and the problem isn’t just with the current politicians in our state legislature. History has taught us an undeniable lesson: Politicians can’t be trusted to draw electoral maps fairly. That’s why I introduced the FAIR MAPS Act this month.

‘Restoring fairness’

The FAIR MAPS Act, holds the promise of ending partisan gerrymandering. It proposes the establishment of independent, non-partisan redistricting commissions in every state. This would be a significant step toward restoring fairness and ensuring that voters are the ones choosing their politicians, not the other way around.

The Duke University Quantifying Gerrymandering team recently found that if we end gerrymandering, there could be 37 to 42 more competitive House seats around the country. That would double the number of competitive House seats available today. That’s a big deal. Competitive districts are where we can have a real debate over the best ideas, and elect representatives willing to work across the aisle to get things done. My bill – the FAIR MAPS Act – would help make that a reality and strengthen our democracy.

Voters should choose their politicians. Politicians shouldn’t choose their voters. While my name won’t be on the ballot in 2024, I’m not giving up or going out quietly because democracy is on the line. I’ll continue to fight with every ounce of my energy for fair maps, an end to partisan gerrymandering, and to protect the right to vote for every single North Carolinian.

I encourage North Carolinians to reach out to their elected officials to ask where they stand on this issue. It’s past time that we pass common sense efforts like the FAIR MAPS Act to ensure that we put people over politics and safeguard democracy.

Author

  • Wiley Nickel

    Wiley Nickel is currently serving his first term in Congress as the U.S. Representative of the 13th District of North Carolina which includes Wake, Wayne, Johnston and Harnett Counties. Wiley lives in Cary with his wife, Caroline, and their two kids. Wiley earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Tulane University and later graduated from the Pepperdine University School of Law.

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