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Though the  number of African-Americans elected to state legislatures in this area of the country since enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 has grown to over 300, they have effectively been shut out of the power structure.

That’s the conclusion Tom Edsall reaches in today’s New York Times — perhaps the most cogent explanation to date of just how Republicans have used redistricting laws, and in particular the concept of “majority minority” districts, to entrench themselves in state legislatures:

Republican legislators in the South have moved aggressively on two fronts to secure their power: by designing legislative and Congressional districts minimizing Democratic prospects and by moving ahead with legislation designed to suppress voting under the guise of combating voter fraud.

Mark Braden, a Republican lawyer who’s worked for years on redistricting efforts in the South, admitted as much in a recent forum at the Brookings Institution (as quoted at the electionlawblog):

 . . of course, redistricting based upon race has been vital to the creation of the Republican Party itself.  I mean, there’s no question about that throughout the ‘80s, ‘90s.  People that were working with me was the minority community in the South, and that’s what permitted the Republican party to become the majority party in those states at the local and legislative level.  

Edsall proceeds to discuss just how that happened – with what could be the playbook used for the 2011 redistricting plan upheld this week by a three-judge panel here :

Republicans in control of redistricting have two goals: the defeat of white Democrats, and the creation of safe districts for Republicans. They have achieved both of these goals by increasing the number of districts likely to elect an African-American. Black voters are gerrymandered out of districts represented by whites of both parties, making the Democratic incumbent weaker and the Republican incumbent stronger.

 

#1 comes from the Charlotte Observer which, in response to the recent decision upholding GOP-drawn legislative districts, makes another strong case for passing nonpartisan redistricting legislation now:

“Legal doesn’t necessarily mean fair, however, and our opinion on redistricting remains the same. The process in North Carolina is flawed and time consuming. It allows the party in power to protect incumbents by drawing districts in a way that dilutes the opposition’s strength. It takes choices away from voters. Read More

Per their order entered on May 13, the three-judge panel handling the redistricting case will hold hearings today and tomorrow to consider specific factual issues before deciding the parties’ respective requests for judgment.

The judges have asked for testimony and additional evidence in two separate areas:

First, were challenged districts subject to the Voting Rights Act drawn in places where racially-polarized voting existed — i.e., where black voters in the minority of voters were unable to elect candidates of  their choice — and was the drawing of such districts a reasonable response under the Act?

And second, in certain districts not subject to the Act (Senate 31 and 32, House 51 and 54, Congressional 4 and 12), where a majority black voting population was not achieved during redistricting, is there additional evidence that race nonetheless was the predominant factor in drawing those districts?

The court has held in abeyance any ruling on these and other issues raised by the parties in their requests for judgment pending completion of these hearings.

President Obama 4No, the above headline is not a typo or even a logical stretch. There is actually a close relationship between the two subjects. Here’s why:

Although all the facts have yet to come to light, the recent scandal in Washington related to the wrongful targeting of conservative groups by Internal Revenue Service officials appears to be just that: a scandal. Every American should be outraged anytime the people in power abuse the system to target any group or individual because of their beliefs. It is an offensive assault on core constitutional rights anytime such an event occurs. President Obama needs to get to the bottom of this ASAP and punish all who are responsible.

Unfortunately, such occurrences are not new in the United States. They occurred when the George W. Bush administration wrongfully targeted liberal groups (click here and here to read about some examples) AND they occur every time politicians in power draw absurdly gerrymandered political maps to punish their opponents and deny voters the opportunity to participate in real elections. Read More

Neal HuntAs reported previously here and here, one of the 2013 legislative session’s leading contenders for “Most Shameless Power-Grab Legislation” has to be the proposal by conservative Wake County senators to rig the districts and election schedule for the Wake County School Board.

As we noted last month:  ”[the] new bill from Senator Neal Hunt (pictured at left) would change the rules of how school board members are elected in the capital county in a way that is clearly designed to alter the board’s power structure and move things in a conservative direction.” The bill would, in addition to redrawing district lines, extend the terms of conservative members John Tedesco and Deborah Prickett from four years to five.

Now, there’s news this morning that Hunt is still serious about advancing this offensive legislation; the measure has been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Redistricting Committee tomorrow (Wednesday) at noon in Room 544 of the Legislative Office Building.