Gerrymandering, where one party draws political maps that skew in their favor, is an issue that’s playing out in courts across the country. Few regions have been impacted more heavily than Western North Carolina. In Asheville, activists staged a creative event Saturday to draw attention to how our Congressional maps are drawn. BPR's Jeremy Loeb was there.
You could call Asheville ground-zero for the gerrymandering debate taking place across the country. It was here that in 2010, newly empowered Republican state lawmakers drew Congressional maps that split the heavily Democratic mountain city between 2 safe Republican districts. Republicans now control 10 of 13 Congressional seats in the swing state.
Alana Pierce: “It’s a very partisan process and it ends up being the legislators choosing the voters rather than the voters choosing the legislators.”
Alana Pierce of the local League of Women Voters helped organize a creative way to draw attention to the lines, what they called the Gerrymander 5k. More than 350 people came out to run or walk the meandering district line that splits Asheville. Pam Tidwell explained that she has two children who live on either side of the road where the run began.
Pam Tidwell: “…and they are in two different districts. It is absurd.”
The runners organized into groups….
Pierce: “1-2-3 Goooooo!”
And off they went. The route, like the district line, was a little odd.
“Are we going out that way?” Pierce: “You’re going out THIS way!!” [laughs]
5 kilometers later, and back where he started, a 23 year old Asheville resident named Matt was catching his breath.
Matt: “I’ve never run a race with so many twists and turns. But I guess when you leave the governments to draw a 5k, that’s what they do.” [laughs]
David Daley, an author who documented gerrymandering nationwide, said Asheville’s split is a perfect example of lawmakers using district lines to take away the rights of voters to select their representatives.
David Daley: “And politicians get away with it because we think it’s technical and tedious and about maps and math. Everything we can do to make it interesting and creative and fun is what’s going to ultimately build the awareness that changes this.”
And those runners had plenty of fun. Not by accident, the route ended right in front of a bar.