Redistricting Update 4/12/2011

A coalition of advocacy groups spanning the political spectrum and a bipartisan group of state legislators held a press conference today to unveil their proposal (H-824) for North Carolina to adopt a nonpartisan redistricting commission similar to the one used for decades in Iowa. The press conference featured chief sponsors Rep. Rick Glazier and Rep. David Lewis, other speakers and two legislators from Iowa, piped in via Skype. It’s too late for us to use the Iowa model this year – even though North Carolina has the distinction of being the nation’s epicenter of partisan bickering over map drawing. We’ll likely see another round of legal wrangling as new state maps using the 2010 Census get drawn up by the Republican majority in the General Assembly. Their work is slowly moving forward. The first of a dozen public hearings on the shape of new legislative and Congressional districts is set for Wednesday at 3 pm at the Museum of History, with satellite locations at the Nash Community College and Roxboro’s Piedmont Community College campus. There are no proposed maps to critique, but a special General Assembly website is brimming with loads of information and forms for public comment. On Thursday, you can hear a distinguished panel talk about how to move North Carolina along the path of achieving an independent redistricting process; sign up for the luncheon panel in Raleigh with the NC Center for Voter Education.

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5 Responses to “Redistricting Update 4/12/2011”

  1. Frank Burns says:

    Forwarded is another case being made for having voter photo IDs in light of recent events in Wisconsin. I found it interesting that Mexico requires photo id to vote but we don’t here in the US. Are we trying to game the system for illegal aliens to vote when Democracy NC is opposed to voters showing photo ids to vote?

    Wisconsin’s Election Snafu Is a National Wake-Up Call

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703551304576260653672631890.html?mod=rss_opinion_main

    The need for greater transparency grows as we head toward 2012..Article Comments
    It’s been over a decade since the Bush-Gore recount in Florida was supposed to spur a wholesale modernization of our election systems. But a stunning mistake made by a Wisconsin county clerk in a nationally watched state Supreme Court race reminded us of how far we have to go.

    Wisconsin voters went to the polls on April 5 in an election that could have flipped the state Supreme Court’s majority from conservative to liberal. On the morning of April 6, liberal challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg declared victory by a margin of some 200 votes. But the next day Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus announced that she had excluded some 14,000 votes from the city of Brookfield when she gave her final tally to the Associated Press on election night. The revised tally put conservative incumbent David Prosser more than 7,000 votes ahead of Ms. Kloppenburg, and he has since been verified the clear winner.

    Ms. Nickolaus’s error could have been easily avoided through transparency. She had ended the prior clerk’s practice of reporting election results for individual cities because it was “not her responsibility” and she didn’t “have the staff to enter all the data”—an absurd statement given that many smaller counties post such data on their websites. Many states, such as Kentucky, offer user-friendly websites to track returns statewide.

    Not so in Wisconsin—and if we don’t view this month’s mess as a wake-up call, we’ll have only ourselves to blame if next year’s presidential election turns into a rerun of Florida 2000. Americans know it could happen: The Brookings Institution reports that in a 2004 poll of 37 nations, Americans were more likely than citizens of any country save Russia to say that their elections are “very dishonest.”

    Mexico—which has a national photo ID requirement for voting—spends roughly 10 times more per capita than the U.S. and has virtually eliminated charges of voter fraud or incompetence. We can vastly improve our system with much smaller investments.

    Our Constitution decentralizes our election procedures over 13,000 counties and towns, with each counting its votes in its own way. This basic framework is sound, but local practices are too often unsound. In 2005, a bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform, headed by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, issued 87 recommendations on how to clean up our system. Sadly, most have been ignored or implemented only haltingly.

    Fewer than half of states exchange updates on voter registration with other states, and many never sufficiently check the accuracy of registration information. Most registration lists are inadequately transparent—they aren’t easily searchable and are clogged with ineligible or duplicate voters. Fewer than half the states require some form of post-election audit or manual recount.

    The Carter-Baker commission noted that “the electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters.” Eighteen of the 21 commission members called for voters to show photo ID at the polls and for more security for absentee ballots.

    Some states have since adopted photo ID laws. But too many (like Wisconsin) still do not require any ID to vote. In a time of razor-thin election margins, we can no longer afford such insecurity in our election process.

    Also, though one-third of all votes in 2008 were cast before Election Day, safeguards against absentee ballot fraud are still spotty. In Ohio, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted has proposed allowing voters to use a government- issued check or utility bill to prove their identity at the polls, but requiring that absentee or provisional voters provide all nine digits of their Social Security number. Kansas now requires that absentee voters submit a driver’s license number or a photocopy of their state ID along with their ballot. Kansas has also recently joined Arizona and Georgia in requiring new voter registrants to prove they are U.S. citizens.

    The potential for noncitizens voting is real. A new study by the office of Colorado’s secretary of state, Republican Scott Gessler, has found that 11,805 state residents who were not citizens when they obtained a driver’s license were registered to vote.

    Robert Pastor, the former executive director of the Carter-Baker commission, says his work on it made clear to him a sad irony: While Americans frequently demand observers and best practices in the elections of other countries, we are often blind to the need to scrutinize our own elections. Wisconsin’s snafu reminds us that we still have time to address problems with our own voting procedures before finding ourselves in pitched partisan battles over the 2012 elections.

  2. Joan Halgren says:

    How significant is redistricting to achieve fair voting? It seems the impact of “Citizens United” as well as reduced influence from private/public union membership and the probability of reduced access to the polls by imposing voter ID bills will crush us first. Your thoughts?

    • Frank Burns says:

      How receptive has the Democratic dominated legislature been towards Republican input on redistricting? The answer is not at all. So the shoe is on now on the other foot.

      I would be interested in hearing how requiring a voter to prove he or she is, to the election officials will crush anyone at the polls. The other question I would be interested in hearing from you is who is “us”? I reckon I’m not part of your “us” group as I feel that my vote is protected by the voter ID process to prevent voter fraud.

      • alan says:

        and how exactly does justifying bad government because “the other side did it” move our country forward? Enough of this crap: both parties need to come together and share the power on this issue. I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with partisan posturing in the name of common good.

        • Frank Burns says:

          One word. Balance. The system has been skewed so long in NC for Democrats, it’s sickening. So now the Republicans have the majority, those on the left are now screaming bloody murder. Sorry, this is the system we have, live with it.