How can you help fight gerrymandering in North Carolina? Oddly enough, by drinking purple beer.
The process of drawing the lines that define voting districts is complex, requiring attention to demographics and detail in order to balance representation in our government. Sometimes, though, creative redistricting practices can lead to districts that include and exclude voters with a specific goal in mind. This is called “gerrymandering,” and can be fought by constituents contacting representatives, making their voice heard, protesting and – thanks to a partnership between Fullsteam Brewery and Common Cause NC – drinking the “Purple State” fruited saison.
Fullsteam’s Purple State is made with local purple sweet potatoes, local elderberries and blackcurrant. These ingredients give the beer its unique purple coloration, and impart a mild tartness that is to be expected from a fruit-forward saison. Purple State is being released as part of the Farm’s Edge series, and is meant to reflect not only the potential in local craftsmanship and ingredients but also the diversity found in North Carolina. Our state is host to a wide range of political ideologies and adherents, schools of thought and economic backgrounds. Whatever your food-based metaphor of choice for the composition of the United States – be it melting pot, salad, stew or sandwich – North Carolina makes an easy case for an effective cross-section.
Purple State is made of purple yams grown in Lenoir County, elderberries in Cedar Grove. The beer is brewed in Durham by Fullsteam, a homegrown brewery that has decided to take a strong stance on how our government operates.
“We wanted to express this diversity in a beer and highlight the terrible way our current state government draws boundaries in an effort to divide us… and maintain power,” reads official communication from Fullsteam regarding the release of this new brew. “We are a purple state, and that’s why we’re donating $1 per pint sold to the nonpartisan, nonprofit Common Cause NC. Gerrymandering sucks, and we hope this beer highlights its current (and historical) inequities.”
Common Cause NC is a non-profit and non-partisan organization that aims to organize efforts to rid North Carolina of voting districts perceived and calculated to be unbalanced. Voting districts such as the 28 districts that were confirmed by the United States Supreme Court as being drawn in such a way as to dilute the voting power of non-white citizens.
It’s not unusual for the political party in power to alter district lines to their advantage for upcoming elections, and this somewhat unsavory practice has been allowed by courts to some extent. Racially motivated redistricting, however, is explicitly forbidden. The fight over whether North Carolina’s districts are drawn properly isn’t one over potential partisan advantage. In fact, that’s the primary argument state Republications are using to defend their decisions regarding district shape and size. The argument is over whether these lines are drawn across racial divides, which also just so happen to largely coincide with political ones.
North Carolina is a diverse state, politically purple and hotly contested by Democrats and Republicans alike. Competition isn’t always clean and courteous, especially in politics, but maybe a pint with neighbors and a dollar’s worth of donation to an organization dedicated to fairness in our representative government could go a long way toward fixing some of our problems.