Letter to the Editor: Reform's lead time

Jan 5th, 2011
by Jason Kay
from The Raleigh News & Observer


For years, Republican redistricting reform proposals have languished in various legislative committees without even a vote. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and it's the Democrats who see the merit in reform. They want a fix right now before the new districts are drawn in 2011.


As mandated by the state constitution, the General Assembly and only the General Assembly may draw a new district map. Since redistricting is a constitutional issue, any meaningful change to redistricting must likewise change the constitution.


Any reform proposal will inevitably do one of two things: It will either bind the legislature in how it draws district lines or it will not. Any non-constitutional reform that proposes binding the legislature is likely unconstitutional. Any legislative reform that doesn't bind the legislature is pointless. Such reforms could easily be undone to suit the party in power.


The talk of a quick and easy redistricting fix is overblown and fatally flawed. You cannot change redistricting in a meaningful way without changing the constitution. That takes time, thought and public input. The time to reform redistricting for 2011 was back in 1999, so long ago the governor can't remember seriously considering it.


Jason Kay




The writer is a senior staff attorney at the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law.