Redistricting in North Carolina

November 20th, 2015 by

Speech by Representative Paul Stam                                                            November 11, 2015

Holtzman Public Policy Forum, North Carolina State University

  • Rep. Grier Martin made the point that we may need to leverage uncertainty. I agree.
  • I love maps –In 3rd grade I had behavioral issues. My mother asked my teacher to allow me to trace maps from the encyclopedia in the back of the classroom after I finished my classwork. I learned to love the details of geography.
  • Some important things take time – a long time- in the Legislature
    • It took me 38 years to pass one piece of legislation and 30 years for another
    • I filed my first bill on redistricting reform 26 years ago (1989, HB 1099). In 2019, it will have been 30 years. That may be the year for redistricting reform.


  • As minority leader in 2009, I offered independent redistricting to the Democrats (HB252, Horton Independent Redistricting Comm.). They declined. They should not have been surprised that we picked up 16 seats in 2010. Over time the effects of a gerrymander dissipates. Perhaps in 2019 each side will be uncertain who will win in 2020. We can then leverage that uncertainty.


  • I support a different method of redistricting for two reasons:
    • Justinian’s Institutes: “No man shall be judge in his own cause.”
    • “Quasi agnum committere lupo ad devorandum,” Blackstone’s commentaries.


  • WHEN?
    • No one knows who will be elected in 2020
    • It took over 9 years to complete the litigation after the 2010 census
    • This is the pitch I made to the Democrats when they were in the majority in 2009
    • By 2019 population/demographic shifts will have dissipated the effects of the 2011 maps.


  • ISSUES/PROBLEMS/CAVEATS? Even if redistricting reform passes there will always be problems:
    • There will still be goofy looking maps because of the Voting Rights Act
    • No scheme is beyond politics. This year’s bill-HB 92– transfers power to the staff. The original proposal in 1989 would have transferred power to the Chief Justice
    • Address of incumbents can change overnight.
    • The US Supreme Court changes its mind. In the Pender County case in 2009, the courts required majority/minority districts. But in 2015, the Supreme Court has apparently overruled Pender County in the Alabama Case.
    • How do you program the computer when the rules aren’t knowable in advance?
    • An independent or non-partisan redistricting is not immune from the constant legal uncertainty.


  • Compactness and contiguity are in our platform. But these criteria are not necessarily consistent with communities of interest. Some complain that their city or county is placed into more than one district. But others relish having the power of having more than one representative. Apex has three.
  • Competitiveness – There were 16 pickups in the House in 2010 in about 20 competitive seats. The cost of campaigning will significantly increase when there are more competitive races.
  • The ultimate irrational districting is the United States Senate. Wyoming has the same number of Senators as California. These “districts” were drawn centuries ago.