Courts & the Law, News

Plaintiffs: Supreme Court should not allow GOP to enjoy fruits of unconstitutional actions in another election

The plaintiffs in a partisan gerrymandering case asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday not to grant lawmakers’ request to stay an order requiring them to redraw the 2016 congressional map.

“Applicants pay lip service to concerns such as State sovereignty and administrative inconvenience,” wrote attorneys for Common Cause NC, one of the plaintiffs. “But their true motive is as plain as day: the Republican contingent of the legislature wants to enjoy the fruits of their grossly unconstitutional actions for yet another election cycle. That is not a proper reason to seek a stay, let alone grant one.”

A federal three-judge panel ruled last week that GOP lawmakers disenfranchised voters by unconstitutionally using partisan gerrymandering to create a map that would result in the election of 10 Republican congressional candidates and three Democratic ones.

Legislative defendants asked the judges to stay their ruling, which they denied, and asked for the Supreme Court to step in. They stated in their request that the three-judge panel used a “novel legal theory to hopelessly disrupt North Carolina’s upcoming congressional elections.”

Attorneys for the League of Women Voters, another plaintiff in the two cases that were rolled into one trial, argued that lawmakers have not shown that the lower court’s decision was made erroneously and previously told the court that redistricting at this juncture before an election would not be overly burdensome.

“Third, appellants motion should be denied because, if remedial proceedings are stayed, North Carolina’s voters will likely be condemned to a fourth consecutive election under an unconstitutional congressional map,” their motion states.

Similarly, attorneys for Common Cause wrote that a stay would harm the pubic more broadly.

“Not only is there a strong public interest in constitutionally drawn legislative districts, but moreover, a stay would tend to legitimize the flagrant partisan abuses of the North Carolina legislature — abuses that have continued now for almost a decade — and would invite legislatures across the nation to follow suit,” their motion states. “The Court should not signal that it will reward gamesmanship and obstinacy, especially when fundamental constitutional rights are at stake.”

Both motions address lawmakers’ argument that this case can’t be decided until a partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin is decided, Gill v. Whitford. Plaintiffs note that the facts of the North Carolina case are different and egregious enough to stand on their own — “the evidence of unconstitutionality is even stronger here.”

If the Supreme Court does grant a stay, both plaintiffs ask for an expedited schedule so as to allow a remedy to be implemented this year. You can read the Common Cause motion here and the League of Women Voters motion here.

Commentary

Latest estimate: 4,000 Americans have died already because of Trump healthcare policies

In case you missed it yesterday, the latest numbers show that millions of Americans lost their health insurance last year as conservative policies in Washington and around the country began to take their toll. This is from a story in the Washington Post:

“More than 3 million more people lacked health insurance at the end of 2017 relative to the end of 2016, according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. A recent estimate of the connection between a lack of insurance and mortality suggests that for every 800 people without insurance for a year, one will die — meaning that 4,000 more people may have died during the year than would have had they been covered.

That increase in the percentage began in the first quarter of Donald Trump’s presidency. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the percentage of uninsured adults in the United States was 10.9 percent — a low after three years of declines following the passage of the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare). In 2013, before the law went into effect, nearly 1 in 5 adults lacked insurance. Over the course of last year, that figure rose again to 12.2 percent.

The largest driver for this change, Gallup reports, was people declining to buy their own insurance. Over the course of 2017, as Republicans on Capitol Hill debated the shape of a possible repeal of the ACA, the mandate that individuals have health-care coverage was a frequent target of rhetoric. In December, as part of the sweeping tax-overhaul bill signed into law by Trump, that mandate was repealed. An analysis of the effects of that measure by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in November found that the repeal would lead to 13 million fewer people with insurance coverage by 2027 — and 4 million more by 2019.”

Meanwhile, as today’s lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer pointed out, this is only the beginning of the unnecessary deaths:

“The Congressional Budget Office projects 13 million Americans will become uninsured because of the repeal of the individual mandate, which required that Americans buy health insurance or pay a small fine. Though it was unpopular, it was a linchpin of the law and a complement to the federal mandate that everyone receive care in emergencies, even when they couldn’t afford to pay. It made sure there were enough young, healthy people in the marketplace who don’t spend much on health care but whose presence kept premiums down for the older and sicker. For at least some middle-income Americans, those rising premiums will not be offset by the Trump tax cut.

The law helped stabilize hospitals, which didn’t have to write off as much debt from unpaid-for services. It also made it more likely that middle- and lower-income Americans would receive care and be less likely to face personal bankruptcies. More Americans with comprehensive coverage also helped push the abortion rate down to an all-time-low and lowered rates of teen pregnancy. It did all of this – along with helping millions of seniors pay for prescription drugs – while decreasing the deficit a tick. The new tax law will be responsible for fewer insured Americans and increasing the deficit once again.

It’s a horrific tradeoff. Health insurance provides peace of mind that a small bump in take home pay never could. Because Republicans aren’t committed to making sure this trend doesn’t take hold, it’s up to voters to find leaders who will be.”

Commentary

Forecast is good for this Saturday’s women’s marches

Today looks like it will turn out to be a snow day for large swaths of North Carolina, but the forecast for Saturday promises blue skies and temperatures in the 50’s for the Women’s Marches that will take place in cities across the state.

Here’s the scoop on some of the major marches for folks looking to plan their weekend schedules:

Women’s Marches will take place in Raleigh, Charlotte, the Triad, Asheville and Wilmington (among other places) on January 20th. Click below to learn more and find opportunities to participate and volunteer:

Raleigh Women’s March will be meeting at Halifax Mall in Raleigh at 9:00 AM. Link to volunteer.

Charlotte Women’s March will be meeting at First Ward Park in Charlotte at 10:00 AM. If you plan to attend the march please sign up here. If you’d like to volunteer please use this link.

Triad Women’s March will be meeting at Corpening Plaza in Winston-Salem at 12:00 PM.

Asheville Women’s March will be meeting at Memorial Stadium at 11:00 AM. Link to volunteer.

Women’s March on Wilmington will take place from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM at 102 N. 3rd St.

See ya’ there!

 

Courts & the Law, News

Federal judges deny request for stay in partisan gerrymandering case as Supreme Court considers it

A federal court has denied GOP lawmakers’ request to halt its decision to strike down the 2016 congressional map because of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.

The same request is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the federal three-judge panel’s unanimous decision to deny the request for stay, they wrote that lawmakers “failed to meet their ‘heavy burden’ in seeking the ‘extraordinary relief’ of staying this court’s order.”

According to the court document, the court considers four factors when determining whether to issue a stay pending appeal: 1: whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; 2: whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; 3: whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and 4: where the public interest lies.

The document states that lawmakers in their request for stay did not specifically address those four factors but if they had, they still wouldn’t have met the burden for a stay.

The judges wrote that the plaintiffs in the partisan gerrymandering case, not legislative defendants, stood to be substantially injured if a stay was granted.

“If Plaintiffs — and North Carolina voters in general — are denied relief before the 2018 election, Legislative Defendants would reap the benefits of their invidious partisan districting efforts ‘for another election cycle,'” they wrote. “As a result, North Carolinians would cast votes in congressional elections conducted under unconstitutional maps in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018 — virtually the entire decade.”

The judges also address lawmakers’ argument that the case should be stayed because the Supreme Court had not yet made a decision in a similar partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin, Gill v. Whitford. You can read the full decision here:

District Court Stay Denial by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

Education, News

Report: Racial gaps in school suspensions persist

One of North Carolina’s most troubling K-12 disparities endures, according to a new report cited Monday by The News & Observer.

The report, issued by a project of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, details persistent gaps between suspension rates for black and white students across the state’s 115 school districts.

Policy Watch has reported on the scope of this issue in the past, and, despite evidence that the state’s K-12 system is reducing the number of suspensions, the gaps in student suspensions remain.

From The N&O report:

Black students are more likely to be suspended than their white classmates, according to the report cards.

During the 2015-16 school year, black students in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system were 10 times more likely to be suspended than white students, 8.7 times more likely in Durham and 7.8 times more likely in Wake County.

“The Racial Equity Report Cards are intended to be a launching point for community education and discussion,” Peggy Nicholson, co-director of the Youth Justice Project, said in a written statement released Friday. “They are not meant as an attack on the critically important public institutions that serve our youth, but rather, as a call-to-action for students, parents, advocates, policymakers, and institutional stakeholders to collectively examine the causes of racial inequity in their community and develop solutions that will help young people, especially youth of color, avoid and escape the school-to-prison pipeline.”

The coalition says disparities such as those seen in suspension rates mean more children of color are funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline, a system of policies and practices that pushes students out of school and into the juvenile and adult criminal systems.