In North Carolina, it is impossible to have a conversation about redistricting without bringing up gerrymandering. In every state, redistricting of congressional and state legislative districts is supposed to happen every ten years with the release of new census data. In North Carolina, however, redistricting happens every couple of years because of the state tradition of partisan and racial gerrymandering in the General Assembly. Gerrymandering will continue into the next national election cycle unless constituents, including students, speak up to their representatives at the local level.
Gerrymandering, the practice of creating voting districts to advantage the party in power, has existed in the United States since 1812 and has thrived specifically in North Carolina because legislative district maps are created by the same legislature they elect. This leaves the door open for partisan politics to easily enter the map-drawing process. While legislators are supposed to abide by the principle of “one person, one vote,” when the power of their party is at stake, this principle is not always upheld. New technology and better data has made the process of gerrymandering easier than ever.
One of the most egregious examples of gerrymandering was on the campus of North Carolina A&T. During the 2011 redistricting process, the Republican-controlled General Assembly drew the line for new congressional districts through the middle of campus. This divided the mostly Democratic-leaning votes of students at the university into two, mostly Republican districts, where their votes had little influence.
A decision by a federal court struck down the map that divided the campus, so A&T got to vote as a unit for the first time in years during the 2020 elections. Coincidentally, the 2020 election precincts in the newly formed district reported record-breaking voter participation. While some of the increased civic involvement may be because of the high stakes of the 2020 election, another contributing factor was the more fair district students were placed in.
Based on census data from 2020, North Carolina is gaining a new seat in the House of Representatives. The new seat will likely be placed in the Mecklenburg or Wake County areas because those have been the spots for the most significant population growth.
While NC State students may not be permanent residents of Wake County, our voices are still important, especially in national issues like student debt. If NC State becomes a victim of partisan gerrymandering like A&T, there could be ramifications for years to come.
One of the actions you can do to make the most impact is contacting your General Assembly representatives. Most NC State students living on or around campus are represented in the NC Senate by Sen. Dan Blue. Representation in the House varies a bit more by location, so look up who your specific representative is with your address. Don’t forget to contact your hometown representatives as well. Sometimes a letter to them will be more impactful because they are more likely to be a Republican representative, which has been the party responsible for partisan gerrymandering in all of recent history.
Several house bills have been proposed already with an aim to improve North Carolina’s redistricting process to look more like states that use a redistricting commission with equal representation of both parties. It is important to advocate for the passage of these reforms so North Carolina can have fairer representation for this election cycle and many more in the future.