Farkas: Time has come for independent redistricting commission
Sunday, January 8, 2017
Last November, a federal court threw out North Carolina’s state voting maps drawn by the General Assembly, ruling that multiple Pitt County legislative districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered. With new technology, politicians in Raleigh have become professionals that surgically draw state and federal legislative districts to assure their victories by picking their voters.
Gerrymandering is nothing new and both political parties are at fault for letting this spin out of control. The result is a broken elections system that pushes candidates to new extremes, strips voting power from local communities, and resulted in roughly one third of incumbents running unopposed in 2016.
On Wednesday, the North Carolina General Assembly will convene in Raleigh for the 2017 legislative session. With new leadership coming into office at every level of government, it is a transformative time. It is also an opportunity for renewal, where leaders have a chance to make finding common ground a top priority again.
While my own campaign for state House came up short on Election Night, I am forever appreciative to the over 17,000 Pitt County voters — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — who supported my effort. We raised the level of debate on a number of important issues and showed voters what they should expect from their elected representatives.
In my election night call to Rep. Greg Murphy, I pledged to be a local resource to him in the spirit of bipartisanship and in the best interest of Pitt County. After incredibly contentious national and statewide campaigns, any opportunity to foster statesmanship is good for the communities we call home.
Being a resource to Rep. Murphy, however, also means holding him accountable for the promises made during the campaign. In The Daily Reflector’s Oct. 26 coverage of the District 9 campaign, Rep. Murphy committed to supporting an Independent Redistricting Commission to stop politicians from choosing their voters.
This was a promise I made to voters on Day One of my campaign and while it may have taken a while for him to publicly adopt my position, I’m pleased Rep. Murphy got on board.
If both of Pitt County’s local candidates end up on the correct side of an issue, that’s good for our area. I strongly encourage Rep. Murphy to now honor his pledge and help create an Independent Redistricting Commission as soon as he returns to Raleigh.
If he needs help looking for other champions of this cause, Republican State Rep. Jon Hardister and Democratic State Sen. Jeff Jackson are looking for bold partners ready to make a difference.
I encourage Rep. Murphy to break from Raleigh political bosses and support a proven bipartisan solution that will solve this issue for good. Start 2017 off right by renewing our democracy and building a common vision that all North Carolinians can rally around.
Brian Farkas was the Democratic nominee for the District 8 seat in the state House of Representatives.