RALEIGH — Greensboro-area legislator Jon Hardister joined a bipartisan group of N.C. House members Wednesday in a renewed effort to curb partisan gerrymandering.

Hardister, R-Whitsett, combined with a fellow Republican and two Democratic representatives in sponsoring a bill that would put redistricting in the hands of an independent 11-member commission.

The commission would include four members from each political party and three registered voters who are unaffiliated. The goal would be to produce new congressional and legislative voting districts not based on political considerations or past voting patterns, but ones that are compact and rooted in such unbiased factors as geographic proximity.

Critics call the result of the current, highly political process “gerrymandering” because partisan lawmakers sometimes devise districts with odd, reptilelike shapes when they favor one party over the other by linking like-minded voters in different geographic areas.

This is the fourth consecutive session in which Hardister has introduced a major proposal to remove the General Assembly from direct, hands-on control over the process of carving out voting districts.

“I have supported this when my party was in the minority and I am supporting it now that we’re in the majority,” Hardister said in a telephone interview after the new bill was unveiled at a Wednesday morning news conference at the state Legislative Building in Raleigh.

Hardister said the new proposal is very similar to the one he backed last session, which floundered in committee although it gained numerous co-sponsors. Hardister and other co-sponsors of the new bill said they sense more momentum this session in favor of their latest initiative among their fellow legislators.
Both McGrady and Reives emphasized that putting legislators in control of their own destiny by giving them total control over redistricting erodes the public’s confidence in government.

Of course, legislators have always had such absolute power. But the process has come under closer public scrutiny with the advent of increasingly powerful computers that give legislators greater precision in creating districts that slant toward the party in power.


Cynics have accused NC republicans of preparing for an increasingly blue North Carolina, but Hardister has consistently opposed the dishonest practice of adjusting districts to defeat the will of North Carolina voters.

Following on the success of a grass-roots campaign to end Gerrymandering in Michigan, and a federal judge's order to redraw the districts, the momentum to return political power to voters is growing.