Whether advocating for abortion rights, equitable access to contraception and prenatal care, affordable childcare, paid family leave, or support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, we know our right to vote and choose our elected officials is a key component of citizen advocacy. A robust government of and by the people that allows for the exchange of ideas and truly values the input of diverse voices will lead us to a more just, free, and democratic society.
Unfortunately, Republican legislators in the North Carolina General Assembly do not believe in a free and fair society. The voting maps released this week are clearly designed for one purpose: To cement right-wing, extremist rule in our state, against the will of North Carolinians.
Much has been written about data that clearly shows North Carolina, like many states, has a real mix of ideologies among voters. In past elections, we’ve even seen the number of votes cast for Democratic candidates surpass the number cast for Republican candidates. North Carolina is still considered a toss-up for presidential elections and many statewide races are decided by slim margins. Yet this reality is not reflected in our General Assembly nor our congressional delegation. As this most recent legislative session shows us, that North Carolina is a purple state doesn’t figure into extremist policies—from restricting abortion access to attacking the LGBTQ+ community to undermining public schools—Republicans are willing to ram through.
Racist gerrymandering was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S Supreme Court; and similar maps, when reviewed by a 2019 North Carolina Supreme Court, were ruled to be unconstitutionally gerrymandered. But with the hyper-politicization of our state court since then, engineered by the same leadership that brought us today’s maps, legislators now have a state Supreme Court that will rubber stamp whatever maps they are presented. While much will be said in legal-ese regarding the difference between partisan and racial gerrymandering, one only has to look at the targeted districts to know these maps are another racist attempt to consolidate power and further marginalize Communities of Color, young people, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrant communities, and people who live in metropolitan areas.
Time and again we’ve seen partisan gerrymandering rob us of a government where we the people get to choose our elected officials. Instead, these maps create a government that’s unresponsive to everyday people and positions itself to coast indefinitely on safe districts and uncontested races. When candidates run unopposed and lawmakers in “safe” districts believe they have a mandate simply because they chose their voters and drew their own districts, we’re left with a legislature that only responds to donors and special interests. These elected officials then ignore the voices of the majority of North Carolinians who have been left without any representation, and who see that the system is rigged against them.
Despite the narrative of extreme polarization in our society, many North Carolinians share similar values: We believe in a living wage; on-the-job protections from discrimination; the expansion of healthcare access; the protection of reproductive rights and abortion access; and free and fair elections, including independent redistricting. Rather than creating opportunity for robust policy debate on issues, Republicans have gerrymandered their way to a government by, of, and for out-of-touch lawmakers who are chiefly concerned with holding onto their own power. This is not what democracy looks like.