North Carolina Voter Confusion Could Have Been Avoided

Posted by Drew Spencer Penrose on March 17, 2016

Many voters have already voted in North Carolina's March congressional primary - but that primary has now been cancelled, and so those votes will not be counted.

North Carolina has some of the most blatantly gerrymandered districts in the country, but that may not be the case for long. Here's a picture of its districts as of the last round of redistricting:


A three-judge panel ruled that districts 1 and 12 were unconstitutional; they have to be redrawn before the 2016 elections. The state asked for the Supreme Court to stay that decision, noting that some people had already cast primary election ballots in those districts, but the Supreme Court denied that stay. The districts will be redrawn, and the primary election will be restarted, now in June.

This situation could have been avoided by a temporary use of multi-winner districts with a fair representation voting method. Doing so would have allowed the primary election results to stand, with nominations coming out of the (now illegal) districts. However, the general election would be held in two multi-winner districts, one made up of the area with district 1 and its surrounding districts, and another made up of the area with district 12 and its surrounding districts. With something like the open ticket method, the results could be fair overall. Last election cycle we proposed something very similar for Florida, as it faced a similar situation. 

We reached out to attorneys involved in the redistricting case. Unfortunately, they said that such a solution, while practical, would not be allowed due to the federal law, passed in 1967, that mandated that all Members of Congress be elected from single-winner districts. Just another reason that law should include an exception for states that use fair voting methods in multi-winner districts.

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