...presents and everybody wants to say something so... Not everyone. This is a press conference to discuss... We will be introducing soon, several of us, legislation for nonpartisan redistricting processes. This is not about the current maps. I recall the first bill I did on this subject was 26 years ago. If it had passed with an effective date 30 years later we'd probably be in good shape. But then others carried it forward, John [unclear 00:00:37], many others, Ellie [unclear 00:00:40]. It's been bipartisan. The idea is that in constructing districts the people with the most at stake are probably ones who shouldn't be doing the details. It's not about squiggly lines or maps that look bad. They're always going to look bad because of the voting rights act, or at least as long as that's in effect. But it is about making the process fairer. I'm hopeful that we'll be successful this time. We're at a window of time of two or three years. In the last decade it took nine years to resolve all of the redistricting fights, lawsuits. This year they've all been resolved after four years. That's progress. So we're at a window of time where each party can look at the situation after the 2020 census and not really know who will win. This is the time to consider nonpartisan redistricting. I'd like to introduce Representative Charlie Jeter who is also working on a bill to this effect. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you, Representative Stam and everyone for being here. I think you'll look around this room and you'll see a pretty bipartisan effort. There's a couple of bills that are going to be filed. Representative Stam has his. Senator Jackson, to my left, he and I will file a bill tomorrow. Our bill is a little bit different. Going to Representative Stam's point about the first time he filed this bill in 1989, had he done taken the strategy we hope to approach, it would have passed. Our bill won't go into effect until after the 2030 election cycle, in large part because it grandfathers everyone out except for Mickey Michaux. Please don't tell him I said that. Everyone says that's a long time out. It's 15 years. I get it but going back, had we done that in '89 it would be the law today. To some degree I think this is about getting the bill passed. The second thing is my bill and the Senator Jackson bill is a constitutional amendment. It requires a vote of the people. It allows them to have direct involvement in their decision making process of what they want to do. Let me make one thing certain - I like my bill but I like Skip's bill. I like any bill that will go to an independent redistricting. We are all here together to make sure that we change the way we draw the lines, not because they were not done appropriately, fair, or legal. They certainly have been based on all of the judicial decisions we've had. But because we think there's a better way to do it and you've got a bipartisan group. Some of the... You look around this room and the areas they come from - urban, rural, republican, democrat, conservative, liberal - every title, every brand is in this room today and I think that should say a lot. I'm hopeful whichever or both bills get passed the senate will have an option and hopefully we can move forward and get this done. This, to me, is a watershed moment for North Carolina. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Are you supposed to introduce me? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I'm supposed to introduce Greer. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I'm Greer. [SPEAKER CHANGES] What we've got here today, folks that vote against each other on so many important issues facing our state in unity, because of the problem that we all agree is one of the greatest problems facing our state and facing our country which is the growing perception amongst citizens that they cannot have a voice in our system of democracy. If you look at my district right now, I'm a democrat. I'm in a safe democratic seat. A republican voter in my district really in the end can actually say that their vote really can have no impact on me because they would be unable to unseat me. I've got republican friends across the aisle in whose districts a democratic voter could say the same thing. We need to have more districts where folks are elected because they were able to build a consensus
Amongst their voters, Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and unaffiliated that they were the candidate that could best represent their collective interest. In the end, as much as it pains me to say it, we need more legislators like Charlie Jeter. We need legislators who were elected because they can build consensus and work across the aisle in order to get elected, because they'll bring those same traits to the general assembly. Conservative or liberal in politics if they're moderate in temperament, they'll find a way to get things done for the people of North Carolina here. If the people of North Carolina can see that getting done, I think we'll go a long way towards restoring their faith in our system of democracy. Unless we take actions like that and act now, I think our system really has no hope. And so it's a deep honor to be here with Democratic friends, Republican friends, we might have an unaffiliated friend here also, who support this effort to get it done because it's the right thing to do for North Carolina. I'd like to introduce now Representative Jon Hardister from Guilford County. Jon and I vote differently on so many things, but we share a love for cars with big engines, and also in putting our political process. [SPEAKER CHANGES] But we don't break the speed limit. Good afternoon. It's great to see everybody. For me, this bill, well, we might have two bills or we may have one. We're not sure, but I think we're all in agreement that redistricting reform is necessary. For me, it's about good government. It's about the golden rule, treating others the way you want to be treated. Many Republicans, including myself, advocated for redistricting reform when Democrats were in the majority in North Carolina. It was the right thing to do then, and it's still the right thing to do today. And I'm proud to work with my colleagues in a bipartisan fashion to achieve this goal, and I hope we can get it done. And is, is the Mayor of Morrisville, is the Mayor Pro Tem with us today? Yeah, we have a special guest who would like to share her thoughts. We have Liz Johnson. She's the Mayor Pro Tem for Morrisville, and I believe you've been on the council since 1999. [SPEAKER CHANGES] That's correct. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And you're a former, you're IBM engineer systems? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Systems indeed. You've done your homework. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well, well please welcome Liz Johnson. And you're also on the Board of Directors of the League of Municipalities. [SPEAKER CHANGES] That is correct. [SPEAKER CHANGES] And she would like to share her thoughts on this topic. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Before I begin my remarks, I just want to thank all the legislators that are here today for their willingness to support these bills that we've heard about today, and also I want to thank all the folks that are here from the different organizations that are in support of fair and independent redistricting. As you've heard, I'm Mayor Pro Tem of the town of Morrisville. I also sit on the North Carolina League of Municipalities Board of Directors, and co chair one of the League's three advocacy organizations. In December, the membership of the North Carolina League of Municipalities adapted one of our legislative goals to support legislation providing for fair, transparent, and nonpartisan methods of drawing legislative and congressional districts. Now you might ask why. Obviously the topic is not the typical concern of municipal government. The mass, the vast majority of city and town councils are chosen in nonpartisan elections. How legislative and congressional districts are drawn would appear to be far removed from the problems that municipal governments are faced with resolving every day. A lot of the criticism of the current system focuses on the lack of competitiveness of gerrymandered districts and how the voice of the political middle is diminished when political party is the driving motive for how districts are formulated. These are not inconsequential concerns. It's important to point out that these concerns also are not new. Several of the legislators that are here today representing both political parties have been making the case for reform for many years, but what is lost in the discussion at times is how the current redistricting process can split communities with similar problems and similar needs. Dividing communities of interest can leave these communities without the strong, unified voice that they, that they need at the legislature. It can leave voters with similar economic interests, whether it's technology workers in and around RTP, farmers and agricultural workers in rural North Carolina, or the resonance of a small college town. It leaves them split up and fractured when it comes to these political representations. Regardless of your political party, whether it is the one in power or the one not, having district lines drawn in ways that keep communities of interest intact is critical for effective representation. Obviously efforts to reform the system like this one will always have their critics. Typically that criticism focuses
From the fact, when it comes to politics, everyone is a partisan. We all have our political leanings. No one is asking anyone to do the impossible and shed those political leanings. What we are asking for is a process in criteria set in law, that allows for and in fact demands that the politics be set aside in a very transparent way while the districts are being drawn. This is not impossible. It's happening in other states. In many of those states, races are more competitive, districts are more compact, and voters are more satisfied. Doing the same here, we can improve public confidence in our electoral system, and better ensure that voters have real choice at the ballot box. We can make clear that North Carolina, we want good government, solutions that work for everyone. Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. [SPEAKER CHANGES] ?? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative Jeter's trying to make up for his mistake, he was supposed to introduce me, but he's explained that he was educated in South Carolina so ??. I represent a district very different from the area in and around Representative Martin's district. You could not probably create a democratic district, given the one county requirement in the constitution in Henderson County. But I'm here because this issue back ten and fifteen years ago, was an issue championed by Republicans, where Democrats were ambivalent or not wanting to make it a priority. Things have changed, and we're in a very different situation and we really have everything has turned the other way. And what I'd say to my fellow Republicans is this was right ten years, fifteen years ago when we were not in the majority, and it's still right that we make sure the system works in a fair way, and we create confidence in our voters, that we're not playing games with redistricting. So this bill is, to my colleagues, is right for the same reasons they voted for it fifteen years ago and I'm glad to have a larger group of Democrats join us in supporting the bill now. [SPEAKER CHANGES] We're going to, in a few minutes we'll open the floor to questions but we do have two more special guests with us today. We have Mr. Chris Fitsimons from NC Policy Watch, which is a progressive organization. And we have Mr. John Hood of the Pope Foundation, which is a conservative organization. And these two gentlemen have had some interesting debates on public policy in North Carolina. They don't agree very often but they do agree on this issue. If a fight breaks out between the two of them, I will be the mediator. But first I'd like to bring up Mr. Chris Fitzsimon of, I apologize. See, the fight has already broken out. Mr. John Hood of the Pope Foundation. [SPEAKER CHANGES] If Chris is from a progressive group, I guess I'm from a regressive group. [LAUGHTER] At the beginning of Shakespeare's MacBeth, three grotesque witches enter the stage accompanied by thunder and lightning. This is not a commentary on the people who have spoken before or after me. You may recall that the witches end up chanting in unison, “Fair is foul and foul is fair. Hover through the fog and filthy air” Now MacBeth the play is about contrasts and inversions. Characters perceive themselves to be good, yet they end up doing evil. And characters that are clearly portrayed as evil at the beginning of the story actually believe that they are advancing toward some conception of the good. Now I make this observation because the redistricting debate, the drama here in North Carolina today is also about contrasts and inversions. When Democrats were in control, they general rejected calls for redistricting reform while arguing that they were just following the rules of the game that they didn't invent. Or even that the goal of maximizing the control of the legislature by the Democrats was more important than maximizing competitive politics because in their minds Democrats had the answers to North Carolina's problems. And at the time Republicans argued they thought their ideas were valuable. They thought that the best way to decide these questions would be through competitive elections with voters choosing a,ong viable candidates as much as possible, having a chance of winning. They also warned Democrats not to assume they would be in power
The next time redistricting would come along. Now, for some actors in this drama, fair is foul, and foul is fair. I think few legislators are being disingenuous or, or dishonest. I think you speak from the place you are and your perception of recent history, but this is not a play. This is real life. The stakes are high. It is important for all of us in North Carolina to get the policy right, not just to inhabit some character that we've been assigned to play. We can disagree about the details of redistricting reform. In fact, we have two different bills currently being discussed in, in file. I'm sure that redistricting reformers would welcome additional alternatives as long as they were consistent with the principle that neutral rules should be our tactic and competitive election should be our end. It's a principle that people across the political spectrum can share. And with that having been said, something wicked this way comes. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I think he was for foul. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I'm Chris Fitzsimon with NC Policy Watch. I'm happy to stand here with people I usually agree with and people I usually disagree for an issue that we all believe is important for the democracy and the voters. Let's remember the voters are who the democracy, our democracy is supposed to work for. This is not all that complicated, and it's almost been a cliché at this point, but the idea is to create a system where voters choose their politicians, voters choose their politicians instead of the other way around. Now we've had in the last several years heated arguments in this building over voter participation and what in, what increases voter turnout, what decreases it. There are still big disagreements about that and the courts are deciding it, but one reason many people don't vote in North Carolina in many races is that their vote really doesn't matter much in November, as Representative Martin said. The congressional and legislative race was decided in effect for a lot of people in North Carolina when the maps were drawn. That was true in Democrats through the maps, and it's true under the maps that the Republican majorities have created. And this is not, let me be clear, this is not an attack on the folks currently in charge of the general assembly. It's a criticism of the process that both parties have used to maximize their political advantage under the law with the districts they have drawn. I was standing here in the 1990s with John Hood push, pushing redistricting reform when the Democrats were in charge. I was standing here in the 2000s when the Democrats were in charge, standing here with John Hood pushing redistricting reform, and I'm here in 2015 standing here with John Hood pushing redistricting reform when, when, when, we're not very effective. But if we're serious about wanting to increase the number of people who participate in our Democratic process, let's give people more competitive races and so they feel like their vote counts in November. Let's return some vibrancy to our Democracy. With all due respect to the comments of some upon the redistricting reform, this is not just about what's legal, what the courts say. It's about what's right, giving more power to the people of the state, not just the politicians or whoever, whatever political party happens to be in power. So let's make elections battle of, battles of ideas and campaigns not which precinct and which part of which district to exclude from what neighborhood to benefit one political party or the other. And I would submit to you today that now's the perfect time to do it. Halfway through this ten year cycle of redistricting. Who knows what the districts will look like that were drawn four years ago, remember, will look like in 2020 or 2030 as we've, as we've heard today. We're experiencing in North Carolina all sorts of changes. Increasing urbanization, rapid immigration to this state, changing demographics of neighborhoods and cities and counties. There's no way to predict what the current districts will look like in 2020 or 2030, but I can guarantee you they won't look much like they did when they were drawn in 2011. Both parties should support turning over redistricting to some independent process so whoever wins control in 2020 or 2030 won't have a built in advantage for six or eight years. So let's give power back to the voters. 88 members of the House courageously voted for redistricting reform in 2011. Many of them are still here. Many of them are standing behind me. Surely many Senators, and you can see many here, also see the wisdom of reinvigorating our democracy and taking out a political insurance policy for the 2020 or 2030 election. That is a good thing for the voters to do and the politically wise thing for the elected officials to do. So I'd like to thank all the legislators who are here supporting this effort, but let's hope this is finally the year we set up a saner and more voter centered way to draw districts in North Carolina. I don't think I can stand many more of these press conferences with John Hood. Thank you very much. [SPEAKER CHANGES] We'll take about ten minutes for questions. Please direct it to a certain person. If you direct it to me, I might refer it to someone who knows more about it. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative, I wonder, excuse me, I wonder if Representative Jeter or Senator Jackson could talk about the details of their plan just a little bit more? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Jackson? First time at the podium. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you very much. Well, it does present a bipartisan, free districting commission
There would be nine members of the commission. None of them can be an elected official. The appointments, the power to make those appointments is spread throughout all three branches of government, so that's the governor, the Supreme Court judge, the chief of our state Supreme Court, and the readers of the House and the Senate both majority and minority. There would be protections to put in, put in place to make sure that there is both majority and minority representation, and the commission would be charged with producing three possible maps. There would be a 45 day mandatory public comment period prior to producing any maps, but once those maps are produced, the general assembly would have 120 days to approve one of those maps for each the House, Senate, and Federal House. If they weren't able to do that within 120 days, then the commission would be authorized to make a selection based on a majority vote within the commission. The effective date is 2028. That's when the appointments would be made, and the first round of redistricting that it would impact would happen in 2031. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Next question. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes sir? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Senator Jackson, can you explain why, why this would, why you would want this to be effective not until 2028 or 2031? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yeah, that was my idea. Chuck McGrady already told you I was educated in South Carolina. To get it done. I think it, if I may get past all the double speak and the hyperbole and all the things that I probably should say here to make you feel better about it. Truth of the matter is, five years in politics is soon, and everybody in this room is gonna be impacted by, if we do it in five years. To me, getting it done is the most important thing. And I firmly believe that we will gain more traction with our friends in the lower chamber in the Senate by giving them this option, and when I reached out to my colleagues in the Senate, they seemed to be more amenable to the idea of this having an impact predominantly not on anybody in this room today for the most part. But we get it on the books, we make it a constitutional law so it can't be changed in the future. I think those compromised positions hopefully make it more likely to be passed in the Senate. I don't doubt any bill could pass in the House within reason. The goal is getting it past the Senate. To me, this is a way to incentivize the Senate to join on board. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Next question. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Representative Stam, following up on what he said, how do you expect the bill that you're sponsoring to pass in the Senate when a similar bill a couple of years ago didn't pass, didn't go anywhere there. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well, times change, people change, ideas change. You work on it. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Any conversations with Senate leadership that might. [SPEAKER CHANGES] No. No, not this year. I'll, I won't get into details but a couple of years ago I got a bill passed that took me 30 years to get passed, and another one that took 38 years. [SPEAKER CHANGES] How long did the Magna Carta take? [SPEAKER CHANGES] It actually lasted 10 days before it was abrogated. Next question. John. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well I suppose my question was similar in what can you, do either of these bills have a better chance to pass in the Senate, do you think? Or I guess the Senate is what's on all of our minds I would expect, and that is what's the likelihood that this gets done? [SPEAKER CHANGES] That remains to be seen. Yes, sir. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I had the same question. I guess if we could ask Representative Jeter and Senator Jackson their take. Is there serious concern that. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Here's what's changed since last year, and I should have mentioned this. Last session and the session before that. We were still in litigation about the current maps, and there was assertions that some, not all, that we couldn't make a change while it was in litigation, or some judge might say, well, send it to a commission. That's, that's what's changed in the last six weeks. The litigation is over. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Do you want to comment on that further? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Next question. [SPEAKER CHANGES] What are the chances there's gonna be a
In another bill in which all of you are going to be in a room ?? bringing on something like this SPEAKER CHANGE Well I thinks its not a bad idea to introduce a couple of bills then have conversations about it if want more gains more attraction, then you can perhaps merge them or submerge them. SPEAKER CHANGE Is it for the other bill or they have indicated they will support your bill. SPEAKER CHANGE Actually the text of it is very similar to my 1989 bill except for the effective date. effective date I understand the reasons for it. I don't know I've got to think about it. Other questions we have lots of people up here who will answer your questions. Did I see somebody over there? Oh I can see him. Steve Rall councilmen from Moris ville SPEAKER CHANGE Will there ever be a way it seems like its still pitchy and its is a long time for the legislate to look at ?? of the amendment of constitutional amendment of the ?? besides having a way ?? 15 years SPEAKER CHANGE Well its legislation would have to have a way referendum ?? the referendum would be soon it just wouldn't take affect for a while. SPEAKER CHANGE John: I have a question for you sir and that would be if the referendum would happen soon but to law makers five years is a long time ??because SPEAKER CHANGE The only thing I wanna say is and and I don't wanna get too much caught on the ?? coz that wasn't the purpose here today Senator Jackson and I will file our bill. Make no mistake I think I speak for everyone up here much to their ?? Sorry ??, Our goal is to get this done and if we're gonna provide you know we've difference in opinions not different opinions but different paths I don't care which path gets passed I fully support the same concept fully support senator Jacksonized concept. If somebody else have got a better concept or different concept that we can get passed and we can get it to the governor and signed then I support that concept. So I don't want us to get too caught up in the manutore or the differences of the bill because to me whats more importantly is this become law in North Carolina and that's everyone's goal in this room. SPEAKER CHANGE If I can call ?? Martin to come in SPEAKER CHANGE You have to start somewhere Independently redistributing is something that is worked its way to several other states. Our states are set up in some respect to be the laboratories of democracy. Now on the redistributing reform issue that is prevented to be that specially be the case, we've got a bill that has passed the House that we know should be able to pass the House again but we need to make the open to ideas that will pass the senate also because of many respects the House and the senate in the North Carolina are also supposed to be their own individual laboratories of democracy democracy. So you have to start somewhere this is where we started and this and this will goes through the house that has many new members that weren't here at the last time that we looked at this and we'll continue to listen as it works its way to the senate for ideas to work for North Carolina but we had to start somewhere SPEAKER CHANGE If time we are ready for one more question and everybody will be around for a while and you can of course interview people as well who else has a question Yes Sir, SPEAKER CHANGE is there anything you can say about Is there anything you can say about how you how you've expect to negotiate with your counterparts in the senate to get support for this SPEAKER CHANGE That's way ahead of of we're not there yet Sometime you can negotiate not like not like ISIS negotiates you know hostages and that kind of thing but you negotiate by explaining your position one step at a time. WE have time for one more and then we'll close this but one more question from the press if not thank you for being here ??