North Carolina Congressman Introduces Legislation To Fight Partisan Gerrymandering

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-N.C.) introduced federal legislation on Tuesday that proposes establishing independent, nonpartisan redistricting commissions in every state. 

The bill, called the Fair and Impartial Redistricting for Meaningful and Accountable Political Systems (FAIR MAPS) Act, aims to fight partisan gerrymandering in congressional redistricting,  which is routinely used to manipulate elections and disenfranchise millions of voters in states across the country. 

Wiley’s home state of North Carolina is no stranger to extreme partisan gerrymandering, which is what inspired the introduction of the FAIR MAPS Act. After a yearslong legal battle challenging North Carolina’s congressionals, the Republican-controlled Legislature drew a new map in October of 2023. 

But the legal saga isn’t over. There are currently three ongoing federal lawsuits against the new maps that allege they violate the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. In addition to three federal lawsuits, North Carolina voters filed a state-level lawsuit alleging that the new congressional map — as well as the state House and Senate maps — created an unfair advantage for Republican candidates and violates the state constitution. 

In February of 2022, the North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the Republican-drawn congressional and legislative maps as partisan gerrymanders, but when the court flipped to a Republican majority in the 2022 midterms, it agreed to rehear the case and reversed its decision.   

“This story isn’t unique to North Carolina, and the problem isn’t just with the current state legislature,” Wiley said in a statement. “History has made one thing clear: Politicians can’t be trusted to fairly draw electoral maps.”

According to research from Quantifying Gerrymandering, a nonpartisan research group at Duke University, if there was federal legislation to end partisan gerrymandering, there could be a significantly higher number of competitive seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, a press release states. Due to  the 2019 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Rucho v. Common Cause, federal courts can’t review claims of partisan gerrymandering, as they represent a political question that’s not within the Court’s jurisdiction.   

Under the proposed bill, congressional redistricting in every state would be conducted through a plan created by an independent, nonpartisan state redistricting commission. The commission would be composed of residents in each state selected from an applicant pool. Political appointees would be banned from serving on the commission. Should the commission fail to come up with a new map, a federal three-judge panel would then be tasked with developing a new redistricting plan.

Nickel, who was elected to represent North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District in 2022, announced in December of last year that he won’t seek reelection because of the state’s new congressional map, which gives Republicans a far greater advantage in his current district. Since then, Nickel launched a tour of the state to advocate for an end to partisan gerrymandering. 

“In America today, politicians too often choose their voters instead of voters choosing their elected officials. That’s troubling and anti-democratic,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who cosponsored the FAIR MAPS Act with Nickel, said in a statement. “The FAIR MAPS Act importantly establishes national standards for redistricting and creates independent redistricting commissions. It’s a commonsense proposal that voters deserve.”

Read the bill here.

Learn more about the legal challenges over North Carolina’s current maps here.