Election results will make for a stronger democracy
There were many winners and losers last week on Election Day, but perhaps the best outcome is that the move to end gerrymandering appears to be taking root across the country.
Nothing will do more to quiet the current strident tone of our political discourse than having state legislatures and the U.S. House better represent the will of the people. That means lawmakers will have to compromise, and radical gerrymandering is the enemy of reasoned debate.
Voters in Michigan, Missouri and Colorado overwhelmingly passed ballot measures to create independent panels to draw state and congressional district maps. A similar ballot measure in Utah is still too close to call, but as of now it appears voters are slightly favoring the creation of a similar independent commission.
After each census, the party in power has always been able to create districts that favored their party. To the victor go the spoils, as the saying goes. But when districts were redrawn in 2011, GOP leaders in many states — including North Carolina — were able to use computer mapping to so precisely draw districts as to make it nearly impossible for their opponents to win.
When we in North Carolina voted on Nov. 6, our 13 congressional districts had already been ruled unconstitutional by the courts. The vote went ahead because there was not enough time to have them redrawn without disrupting the election.
After the final count, 50.3 percent of the votes were cast for Republican candidates. However, we have 10 GOP congressmen and three Democrats. That’s what gerrymandering at its worst does — it suppresses the will of the people.
It also encourages what many call hyper-partisanship. North Carolina legislative leaders are certainly guilty of such a charge. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore are like body builders on steroids, muscling their way to whatever political advantage they think will help the GOP retain power in North Carolina, forgetting that half the state feels differently than they do. They represent the hard-right wing of their party and not North Carolina. That’s no way to lead.
Look, when the Democrats had the majority they also ignored the opposition. But, since 2011, the GOP has proven that its leaders are much better at seizing control and changing the rules of the game than Democrats ever imagined.
In addition to the movement to end gerrymandering, Democrats gained enough seats in the N.C. House to prevent an over-ride of Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto power. This will — hopefully — lead to some horse trading and good ol’ political deal-making to craft measures that both parties can support. What a quaint thought.
In D.C., there was a similar result. Democrats took the House, meaning the two chambers will have to work together to get anything passed.
So we can pick apart and study election results for weeks to come, but by my estimation we — as a nation and a state — have had a correction. We voted for better representative democracy. Let’s hope our leaders heed the call.