Now, General Assembly leaders are just messing with us

Senator Bob Rucho

Senator Bob Rucho, leader of Senate redistricting efforts

There’s something that’s just irresistible to some politicians about playing the role of bully. Maybe there’s some Freudian explanation traceable to schoolyard abuses of years gone by, but whatever the psychological explanations, it’s clear that North Carolina Republican lawmakers are just messing with us now because they can.

Having manufactured a crisis by drawing racially gerrymandered electoral maps and then moving up the May primary for no good reason to March, the GOP lawmakers are now responding to a court order to halt their unconstitutional actions by playing games. As reported last night:

“After federal judges ruled that two of North Carolina’s congressional districts were unconstitutional because the race of voters was the primary factor used to create them, lawmakers decided Tuesday not to consider race at all when drawing new maps.

The new maps also will be drawn to maintain the Republican Party’s 10-3 advantage in the U.S. House, the Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting decided.”

But, of course, as Democratic critics noted at yesterday’s hearing, such an action is just as violative of federal law as using race in a discriminatory way. What’s more, the GOP lawmakers know this. As Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue reminded them yesterday:

“There are places in this state where the Voting Rights Act requires that race be considered to some degree. It’s transparent, the game you’re trying to play. It’s showing disrespect.”

Blue is absolutely right. What’s happening now is that Republican lawmakers, having been called out on their actions, are responding like petulant and oversized 14 year olds. Instead of taking immediate action to own up to their actions, delay the primary and craft responsible districts, they’re throwing a tantrum and pushing around still more kids on the playground, all while hoping that their favorite uncle (Supreme Court Justice John Roberts) will somehow bail them out.

One big problem with this strategy, however, is that Roberts may not have the juice to do so in the aftermath of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death this past weekend. With the Supremes now divided 4-4 on ideological lines, North Carolina Republicans may find themselves having to heed lower court orders to get their act together.

Like the schoolyard bully who now suddenly finds his rich parent or uncle unable to move an honest school principal, North Carolina Republican lawmakers may finally be about to get their comeuppance. Sadly, however, if this is the case, it looks like they’ll have to be dragged to the principal’s office kicking, screaming and unrepentant.


Editorial decries “inane,” noncompetitive districts produced by GOP gerrymandering in NC

In case you missed it, one of the best editorials of the weekend appeared in Sunday’s Wilmington Star News. It is entitled “Twists and turns of gerrymandering.”

After explaining how conservative leaders in the General Assembly went beyond the usual excesses of partisan map making to unlawfully pack African-American voters into two congressional districts, the editors say this:

“It’s a shame we didn’t clean this up when we had a chance. In fact, Republicans used to be great foes of gerrymandering —  back before 2010, when Democrats did it to them….

Gerrymandering is bad. It insulates incumbents from competition and voter ire; 30 percent of North Carolina legislative races, for example, drew only one candidate since the districts were tailor-made for just one party. The closest congressional race in North Carolina was decided by a 15-percentage point margin.

Gerrymandering also creates inane districts that make sense only to a politico. The 12th congressional district is the worst, but Rep. Walter Jones’s 3rd District runs from the Virginia line to downtown Wilmington. We suspect Rep. Jones seldom has Wilmington on his mind.

By creating single-party districts, gerrymandering promotes partisan extremism, which helps lead to gridlock in Raleigh and Washington. The system seldom promotes centrists and compromisers.

One hopes the high court can clean up this mess. It would have been nice if we could have done this on our own.”


Major papers: Time for lawmakers to come to their senses on redistricting

Senator Bob Rucho

Senator Bob Rucho

Phil Berger

Sen. Phil Berger

Both of North Carolina’s two largest newspapers are featuring editorials this morning calling on the state’s Republican legislative leaders to abandon their destructive and illegal redistricting scheme.

Here’s Raleigh’s News & Observer:

As a constitutional scholar, Republican state Sen. Bob Rucho of Matthews is a good dentist (his actual profession). The same goes for his skills as an architect of congressional and legislative district maps.

Now, thanks to blatant gerrymandering of the state’s congressional districts – something Republicans knew they were doing when they drew new Republican-flavored maps after the 2010 census – North Carolina is in a legal mess. A federal judges’ panel has ruled that two congressional districts, the 1st and the 12th, are unconstitutional because of racial gerrymandering to reduce the influence of black voters by packing them into certain districts….

Rucho says the ruling could throw elections ‘into chaos.’ It was he and his Republican mates on Jones Street who tempted chaos. Osteen seemed to repudiate the senator’s view.

There now are five federal lawsuits involving North Carolina’s voting maps and challenges to voting suppression laws such as voter ID, along with the absurd redrawing of district lines for the Greensboro City Council and the Wake County school board. All because Republicans in power couldn’t resist the temptation to put the fix in on elections to help preserve their power.

And this is from the Charlotte Observer in an editorial that also derides the legislature’s heavy handed attempted power grab vis a vis the Governor:

“When a parent reprimands a child for bad behavior, the child has a choice: Straighten up and fly right, or dig in and double down.

Ten days ago, six of North Carolina’s seven Supreme Court justices (three Republicans, three Democrats) agreed that the legislature had overstepped its authority by giving itself, rather than the governor, appointment power over executive-branch commissions.

Exactly one week later, three federal judges on Friday agreed that the legislature had passed an unconstitutionally gerrymandered map of congressional districts.

These are distinct cases, but in each multiple judges found that the legislature acted unconstitutionally in wielding its power.”

The editorial goes on to call on legislative leaders to confirm McCrory appointees they’ve been holding hostage and, even more importantly, to abandon their commitment to gerrymandering and to move to enact nonpartisan redistricting: Read more


It’s time to delay the March primary

gerrymanderingMoving the 2016 primary from its normal date in May to March was always a lousy idea — one that was motivated as much by the desire to protect incumbents and the state’s conservative legislature as it was to make a North Carolina a “player” in national presidential politics. Now, with Friday’s federal court ruling striking down the state’s congressional map as racially gerrymandered, the time has come for state leaders to admit their error and start over. Cancel the March primary. Redraw the maps fairly and reschedule the election for May — or even later. (Heck, the state legislative maps were outrageously gerrymandered as well). We’ve had a state primary in the summer before and things went just fine. Rushing now to barrel ahead with a primary in March (at least in the non-presidential races) would be a travesty.

And speaking of Friday’s ruling, be sure to check out the following statement from good government watchdog Bob Hall at Democracy North Carolina:

Don’t Blame Those Who Exposed Computerized Apartheid
Statement from Bob Hall, Democracy North Carolina, regarding ruling on Congressional district maps

We congratulate the team of attorneys and researchers at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice who have skillfully challenged North Carolina’s racially gerrymandered political districts! The panel of federal judges agreed that NC legislative leaders used race as the “nonnegotiable criterion” for how the boundary lines were drawn for Congressional Districts 1 and 12. Black and white voters were carefully segregated on the assumption that black voters uniformly voted against the Republican mapmakers’ interests and therefore needed to be packed together and isolated to restrict their political influence. Read more


No choice voting

(Source: Common Cause NC)

(Source: Common Cause NC)

Perhaps you haven’t been paying much attention yet to the upcoming election cycle, but here’s a fact that every voter who cares about the state of democracy in North Carolina should know.

In almost a third of North Carolina’s 170 legislative districts, only one candidate has filed to run for an open seat — meaning that there will be no competition in both the primary and general elections in those districts.

The reason?  Gerrymandering.

Here’s more from the folks at Common Cause North Carolina:

The driving force behind this lack of competition is gerrymandering, the longtime practice of partisan politicians drawing the state’s voting maps to heavily favor one party or the other. In turn, opposing candidates have little or no chance of winning in these districts — deterring many potential contenders from even bothering to run and leaving voters with no choice on their ballot.

Just one candidate filed for office in these 54 legislative districts, effectively deciding the outcome of these elections before a single ballot is cast. In all, almost a third of North Carolina’s 170 legislative seats will have no competition in both the primary and general elections.

Over 3 million North Carolinians reside in the 41 state House districts that lack any competition this year, and nearly 2.5 million live in the 13 state Senate districts where just one candidate is running.

In the 54 days leading up to the March 15 primary, the group is taking a daily look at each of the 54 NC General Assembly districts where just one candidate is running for office.

Here’s today’s focus, Mecklenburg County’s House District 99:

(Source: Common Cause NC)

(Source: Common Cause NC)

And here’s state Sen. Jeff Jackson on why this lack of competition is a dangerous thing for North Carolina voters:

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You can follow Common Cause as the group counts down the Forgotten 54 here  or on Twitter at @CommonCauseNC.