If you’re like most people, you could probably spend your whole day trying to get a handle on the morass that is North Carolina’s six-year-old redistricting mess, but in the interest of time, here is one news story and one brief commentary that tells you most of what you need to know:
Number One is Sharon McCloskey’s front page story from the main NC Policy Watch site, “The redistricting roadmap.” In it, Sharon explains the three pending redistricting court challenges that could all be on their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Here’s an excerpt:
The state court challenge to the 2011 legislative and congressional voting maps, Dickson v. Rucho, is already headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, after justices here upheld the redistricting plan for a second time this past December and later denied the challengers’ request for reconsideration.
The federal challenge to congressional districts (specifically districts 1 and 12), Harris v. McCrory, continues following the three-judge panel’s ruling in early February that the districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. While the General Assembly then redrew the congressional map to meet the court’s February 18 deadline, the state asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the panel’s ruling pending appeal and in advance of the then-scheduled March 15 primaries. The high court denied that request for a stay, and lawmakers have reset congressional primaries for June 7.
The question now before the three-judge panel is whether the new congressional map passes constitutional muster. Legislative leaders directed that new map to be drawn without any consideration of race — an instruction that plan challengers and some legal experts say renders the new voting districts suspect. Those challengers have asked the federal judges to expedite their review of the second map and, if necessary, adopt a new plan of the court’s own making.
And coming up right behind the congressional case is the federal challenge to 25 state legislative districts (nine House and 16 Senate), Covington v. North Carolina – set for a week-long trial before a different three-judge panel beginning April 11. That panel refused in November to stay the March primaries pending consideration of the case, saying only that to do so at that late date would disrupt the election cycle.
Number Two is this excellent and insightful letter to the editor that appeared in last Saturday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer by retired N.C. State Professor and current Common Cause NC board member, Larry King, that highlights the absurdity of our situation as well as the ever-more-obvious solution:
Regarding the Feb. 19 news article “Congressional primaries could be reset to June 7”: North Carolina just trounced Iowa in the Gerrymander Super Bowl, 18-0!
Since the 1980s, North Carolina’s gerrymandered districts have been challenged in court 18 times, but Iowa has experienced no challenges. For folks who do not follow political athletics, winning the Gerrymander Super Bowl is not an honor.
In the General Assembly, the party in power draws the districts for its own partisan advantage. In Iowa, nonpartisan legislative staff draw the maps without regard to political affiliation, previous election results, addresses of incumbents.
In 2011 with bipartisan support, the N.C. House passed a redistricting reform bill based on this Iowa model. The Senate never considered the bill. In 2015 the same bill was submitted to the House, again with bipartisan support of a majority of the members. House leadership never brought the bill up for a vote.
Let’s quit spending millions of dollars of our tax money defending these gerrymandered districts, having to reschedule primary elections, having to redraw (still gerrymandered) districts on court orders, ad nauseam. Let’s end gerrymandering now!