Retired Judges to Create Map for N.C. Redistricting Simulation

Sanford School’s Tom Ross will lead a group of retired judges to simulate new district maps

In the second of three events designed to simulate an independent, nonpartisan redistricting panel, 10 retired judges will gather in Raleigh on Friday, June 10, to draw a new, but unofficial, map of N.C. congressional districts. The project illustrates how independent political redistricting might function in North Carolina if adopted.

"Beyond Gerrymandering: Impartial Redistricting for North Carolina, Part 2" runs from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Campbell Law School. The morning will begin with brief sessions featuring Ed Cook, counsel for Iowa’s Legislative Services Agency, and Bill Gilkeson, former legal counsel with the North Carolina General Assembly.

The majority of the event will include a work session during which the panelists will draw new congressional districts using computer software designed for district mapping. The panelists will base their decisions for the districts on criteria outlined in HB 92, a bill pending in the General Assembly.

The event at Campbell Law School, 225 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, Room 308, is free and open to the public. Visitor parking is available in Raleigh’s Municipal Parking Deck at 201 W. Morgan St.

The judges met for an orientation on April 21 at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, where they heard from political scientist Mark Nance of N.C. State University, demographer Rebecca Tippett of the Carolina Population Center at UNC-Chapel Hill and attorney Bill Gilkeson, who served 25 years on the legal staff of the General Assembly.

“Political problems within a fast-changing society compel both political parties to look towards a better system of government,” Justice Bob Orr said at a press conference during the first session in April.

Thomas W. Ross, University of North Carolina system president emeritus and the inaugural Terry Sanford Distinguished Fellow at Duke, leads the redistricting project in collaboration with Common Cause North Carolina and POLIS: The Center for Political Leadership, Innovation and Service. POLIS is a Sanford School initiative that seeks solutions to problems of contemporary politics.

“One potential solution to the sharp division we face in America, perhaps, is a better process for districting that doesn’t take into account partisan politics near to the extent we do now.

People are unhappy with the way things are working now so we have an opportunity to look at alternatives, talk about them, discuss them, help people better understand them,” Ross said. “Looking at the long game is important, as is looking at alternatives and all different strategies that might ultimately prove to better serve the voters and the people.”

Former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Henry Frye said he is participating in the redistricting experiment because he believes it is the right thing to do.

“There are people on both sides that say North Carolina could do a little better,” he said.

The map will be shared publicly at a third session later this summer.

For more information on this initiative, visit: https://polis.sanford.duke.edu/lab/districting/.

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Common Cause North Carolina, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, seeks to curb undue special interest influence, promote ethics in government and connect underrepresented voters to the democratic process.

The Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University educates tomorrow’s leaders and improves the quality of public policymaking through teaching, research, professional training, and community engagement. 

POLIS: The Center for Politics, Leadership, Innovation and Service, a project of the Sanford School, works to seek solutions to the problems of contemporary politics and prepare a new generation of political leaders and engaged citizens.