Commentary, News

Another court challenge seeks to overturn NC’s partisan gerrymandering

As readers will recall, advocates at Common Cause NC filed a challenge to North Carolina’s politically gerrymandered congressional map back in August. Today, another complementary suit was filed by the good people at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Here is the news release that accompanied today’s filing:

Southern Coalition for Social Justice Files Data-Driven Partisan Gerrymandering Lawsuit 

Challenge adopts standard for measuring partisan advantage in redistricting

DURHAM, N.C. – The Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint today on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and numerous individual voters, arguing that North Carolina’s 2016 congressional redistricting plan violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. North Carolina’s 2016 redistricting plan was drafted during a special legislative session after a federal three-judge panel ruled that previous maps were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.

“The Constitution guarantees everyone’s right to participate equally in an electoral system that does not discriminate against them because of their beliefs,” said Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “It’s clear that the intent and effect of creating North Carolina’s 2016 congressional maps were to manipulate the democratic process. The result disparages voters and ensures that one party can maintain political power even when a majority of the state’s voters do not support them.”

In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court held that partisan gerrymandering claims present a legal controversy that courts could potentially resolve. However, to date, the court has not agreed on an acceptable standard to determine when a partisan gerrymander is unconstitutional. League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho offers an empirical analysis to demonstrate the extent to which an extreme gerrymander exists. That analysis is called the efficiency gap, which captures the packing and cracking among a plan’s districts in a single number.

Developed by Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee, the efficiency gap is the difference between the parties’ respective wasted votes in an election, divided by the total number of votes cast. Wasted votes are: (1) any vote cast for a losing candidate; and (2) votes cast for a winning candidate in excess of the number needed to win. More information about wasted votes and how efficiency gaps are calculated is below.

According to the complaint, North Carolina’s efficiency gaps in 2012 and 2014 “exhibited pro-Republican partisan biases larger than 25 percent—[] by far the worst in North Carolina’s modern history and at the far edge of the nationwide distribution.” (p. 16).

“When it comes to congressional districts, North Carolina’s are an extreme and egregious partisan gerrymander. Packing and cracking voters in districts based on their political ideology and voting history classifies voters in an invidious manner unrelated to any legitimate legislative objective,” said Gerry Hebert, Executive Director of the Campaign Legal Center. “Radical partisan gerrymandering like that in this case turns democracy on its head. For the sake of North Carolina voters and voters across our nation, this practice must come to an end. The implementation of our efficiency gap standard would go a long way in ensuring that every voter is entitled to equal protection under the law and having their voice heard.”

Click here to read the full complaint: http://www.southerncoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Complaint-Final.pdf

Supporting documents are here: Read more

Commentary

Charlotte Observer: Police should release video of shooting

The lead editorial in today’s Charlotte Observer is, not surprisingly, directed at the crisis that has gripped the city the last couple of days. This is from “Charlotte police should share video of Keith Lamont Scott shooting”:

“Did Keith Lamont Scott have a gun in his hand when officers confronted him in a University City apartment complex parking lot Tuesday afternoon?

Or was it a book?

Police say the former. Relatives and protesters say the latter.

What we know is that, as Charlotte-Mecklenburg police resist disclosure of the body camera and dashboard camera footage, their narrative of a justified police shooting is getting elbowed aside by the social media livestreams and posts of angry relatives and protesters.

To bring clarity, police should release the footage now.”
And, after pointing out how the release of such a video helped bring clarity to a similar situation in Tulsa, Oklahoma and refuting the claim of Police Chief Kerr Putney that he cannot release the video, the editorial concludes this way:

“Putney can legally release the videos now. After Oct. 1, he could do so with a court order.

We must rebuild trust between police and minority communities. The videos, whatever they show, can help roll back the uncertainty that feeds mistrust.

We applaud the restraint shown by officers during Tuesday night’s protests, which produced injuries to 16 officers.

We appeal to protesters to demonstrate peacefully going forward, and to purge their ranks of the kind of belligerent provocateurs who could be seen on a livestream spewing threats of “head shots” in officers’ faces.

We are surely better than that, Charlotte.

Let’s pull together now, and prove it to the nation.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.

Commentary

New York Times: “It’s not too late for Mr. McCrory to come to his senses”

In case you missed it earlier today, there was more bad news for North Carolina leaders looking to revive the state’s flagging reputation at the national and international levels: the lead editorial in the New York Times. This is from “North Carolina Pays a Price for Bigotry”:

“Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina has some nerve. Alarmed by the rising financial fallout from the discriminatory law he and Republican lawmakers hastily passed in March to bar transgender people from using restrooms that match their gender identity, the governor seemed desperate for an off-ramp last week.

On Friday, he offered to convene a special legislative session to repeal the law, which in addition to policing restroom use nullified local laws that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination. There is a catch, however. Mr. McCrory insists that he will not support repeal unless Charlotte revokes the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance, enacted in February, which Republicans used as a reason to pass the now infamous state statute known as H.B. 2.

It was a desperate move by Mr. McCrory, who appears likely to lose his re-election bid in November, in large part for championing a measure based on the specious notion that transgender people are sexual predators….

The governor and his Republican colleagues in the Legislature are solely to blame for the hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars the state has lost as businesses and sports organizations have turned away from North Carolina, because they don’t want to condone bigotry.”

The Times hasn’t given up all hope for the Guv, however. Here’s the conclusion:

“It’s not too late for Mr. McCrory to come to his senses and take the only way out — admit ignorance and error and repeal the law. While he and lawmakers are at it, they can acknowledge that no one has been made safer by preventing transgender people from using appropriate public restrooms, the ostensible reason for passing the law. The rule was never enforceable, since police officers can’t reasonably be required to inspect people’s genitals outside bathroom stalls. The point of the law was to harm and humiliate L.G.B.T. citizens, and for that all North Carolinians are having to pay an ever growing price.”

Commentary, News

ACLU calls on Charlotte police to release video footage of Keith Lamont Scott shooting

Just in from the good folks at the ACLU of North Carolina:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina today called on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to release any body or dash cam footage that captured yesterday’s police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, the 194th Black person killed by U.S. police this year. Police say Mr. Scott was shot and killed while officers were trying to execute an arrest warrant for a different person.

A new North Carolina law, HB 972, will prevent law enforcement agencies from releasing body camera footage in the public interest without a court order, but the law does not take effect until October 1. All Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers are supposed to be equipped with body cameras while on patrol and the cameras should be in use any time an arrest is made, according to department policy.

Karen Anderson, Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina, released the following statement:

“We join the people in Charlotte and across the nation in sending our deepest condolences to Mr. Scott’s family. We demand a full investigation into why yet another Black person in the United States has died at the hands of a police officer. The public and Mr. Scott’s family deserve answers, and we urge the State Bureau of Investigation and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation.

“In the interest of transparency and accountability, and particularly in light of conflicting accounts about the shooting, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department should quickly release any and all footage it has of the events leading up to the shooting, as well as the shooting itself. The department should also explain why the officer who shot Mr. Scott was not wearing a body camera.

“HB972, the disgraceful law passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory that prevents law enforcement agencies from releasing body camera footage without a court order, does not take effect until October 1. As we seen elsewhere, video footage of police shootings can provide crucial evidence of what took place – especially when there are conflicting accounts from police and community members. Charlotte should set an example for North Carolina by releasing footage of the shooting promptly before the obstacles imposed by the new state law take effect.

“What we already know is that far too many people of color are victims of wrongful targeting and excessive use of force by law enforcement officers across the country, and last night we were once again harshly reminded that North Carolina is not immune to that reality.”

Commentary

Louisiana — yes, Louisiana! — shows NC the way to expand health coverage, save lives

Medicaid expansionIt continues to be one of the grimmer aspects of life in North Carolina under the current reactionary state political leadership that Deep South states that once trailed us by a mile now show us the way in several important categories.

Take the always deeply challenged state of Louisiana. By any number of measures — e.g. poverty, health, education, economic development,  environmental protection — the Bayou State has long trailed North Carolina in dozens of important areas. While not without many important charms and attributes, Louisiana is mostly emblematic of a past that North Carolina has been fortunate to leave behind (at least in many ways) as it has slowly transformed itself into a modern, nationally competitive, forward-looking state.

Unfortunately, this pattern appears to be changing. This is from a story by Associated Press:

“Thousands of people enrolled in Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion program have received preventive services that in some instances have identified cancer, diabetes and other illnesses, state Health Secretary Rebekah Gee said Monday.

More than 305,000 people have signed up for the coverage that began July 1. Gee said nearly 12,000 of them so far have gotten annual exams, cancer screenings, colonoscopies, mammograms and other services through the government-financed insurance program.

‘That’s real people getting real care in real doctors’ offices because of Medicaid expansion,’ the health secretary told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.”

And this is from a news release from the Louisiana Department of Health:

“Nearly 12,000 adults, newly enrolled in Medicaid, have received preventative health care services since Medicaid eligibility was expanded on July 1. In addition, more than 305,000 new members have enrolled in the program.

Early data shows new members have received the following health care services since July 1

  • Over 1,000 women have completed important screening and diagnostic breast imaging such as mammograms, MRI’s and ultrasounds. Of those women, 24 have been able to begin treatment for breast cancer.
  • Nearly 700 adults have completed colonoscopies and over 100 patients had polyps, a precursor to cancer, removed.
  • Nearly 12,000 adults have received preventative services.
  • Treatment has begun for 160 adults newly diagnosed with diabetes.

Providing access to these types of preventive screenings and primary care treatment for adults through Healthy Louisiana has been the vision of the expanded Medicaid program. The program has a goal of covering 375,000 adults by next June. The state has reached more than 80 percent of its coverage target in the first 80 days.

‘Today more than 300,000 individuals have access to quality healthcare that they did not have just three months ago,’ said Governor John Bel Edwards. ‘While that is an achievement in itself, the real achievement is the working poor in our state will be healthier than ever before. This is just the beginning, and we are already seeing the type of outcomes that we know will save lives. Medicaid expansion was right for Louisiana to make our state healthier, but also to save taxpayer dollars, and I couldn’t be happier with how successful this program has been in the first three months.’”

Meanwhile, of course, a half-million North Carolinians go without health insurance and hundreds die prematurely each year as a result of the stubborn and disastrous refusal of Governor McCrory and state lawmakers to close the Medicaid gap here.

What a remarkable waste!