Local GovernmentNews & Opinion

US Rep. Wiley Nickel Brings FAIR MAPS Act Tour to Charlotte

Congressman joins local leaders in discussing new bill to fight gerrymandering

US Rep. Wiley Nickel discusses the FAIR MAPS Act during a stop in Charlotte on Tuesday
US Rep. Wiley Nickel discusses the FAIR MAPS Act during a stop in Charlotte on Tuesday. (Photo by Davis Cuffe)

US Rep. Wiley Nickel joined other elected officials and community leaders at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Association of Educators in southwest Charlotte to discuss the FAIR MAPS Act, which he introduced in the US House of Representatives in April.  

The act would aim to reduce gerrymandering by establishing non-partisan redistricting commissions in each state.

“Charlotte had two members of Congress in the last maps. Republicans targeted African American voters with surgical precision and got rid of one of those seats,” Nickel said, surely a purposeful reference to the language used in a 2016 federal ruling that struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law. “That’s what gerrymandering does to us; it takes away the opportunity for voters to decide who’s going to represent them in Washington.”

Under the FAIR MAPS Act (the acronym stands for Fair And Impartial Redistricting for Meaningful and Accountable Political Systems), district lines would be redrawn by a citizen committee of 15 voters: five Democrats, five Republicans and five independents. 

Eligibility requirements for joining the committee would include residency and voter registration, while disqualifying factors would include large political donations or recent public office. Districts would be drawn contiguously and equal in population, remaining unchanged until the next census.

Nickel said the current North Carolina districting system is not partisan and allows politicians to choose their voters.

“In North Carolina, we’ve seen another extreme partisan gerrymander of our state legislative maps and congressional maps. Politicians should not be choosing their voters; voters should be the ones choosing their politicians,” Nickel said. “North Carolinians deserve a fair and transparent redistricting process.”

According to Nickel, Duke University research found that if gerrymandering ended, 37 to 42 US House seats could become more competitive.

Under the current system, the North Carolina General Assembly draws districts after every decennial census. 

The system came under fire again in 2023 when the latest redistricting was the subject of legal challenges from North Carolina’s Black and Latino voters and voting rights groups who argued that districts were drawn with the intention of diluting the voting power of Black voters in violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution and Voting Rights Act. 

The suit specifically named Congressional districts 1, 5, 6, and 10 as well as Senate districts 7 and 8 as districts where map drawers racially gerrymandered the maps and diluted Black electoral power. The court later rejected the challenge.

For Tuesday’s conference, Nickel led a panel discussion with NC Rep. Laura Budd, Monroe City Council member Surluta Anthony, political activist Harry Taylor, Democracy NC’s managing organizer Kamaria Lawrence, Uncion County Public Schools board member John J. Kirkpatrick, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP President Corine Mack. 

Read more: OPINION: In NC, Democracy Is Throttled and Left for Dead

Nickel is serving his first term in US Congress as the representative of North Carolina’s 13th District, which includes portions of Wake, Wayne, Johnston and Harnett counties. Before his time as a member of Congress, Nickel served as a NC State Senator and as an attorney. 

The conference comes at the tail end of Nickel’s “Fair Maps for North Carolina” Tour. The tour is set to conclude today in Winston-Salem at the ReNewal Fellowship United Church of Christ.

SUPPORT OUR WORK: Get better connected and become a member of Queen City Nerve to support local journalism for as little as $5 per month. Our community journalism helps inform you through a range of diverse voices.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *