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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.

 

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#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

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Moral MondaysWhy I’m being arrested
By Carol Teal, citizen

This is not a decision I made lightly but in the end it’s one I made without hesitation.  Before getting to the essence of why, I had to attend to some practical matters. Did I have the support of my family? – yes. Would it affect my job? – no.  Could I post bail? – yes. 

It’s easier for me to do this than most people. I’m almost 60 years old, nearing the end of my career. I won’t lose my job. This is not a brave thing for me to do – just a necessary thing. 

Why is it necessary? Will this likely have an impact on the legislators making the decisions that I think are so harmful – probably not. Shouldn’t I honor the process of the last election that put all these people in office – absolutely. I do.

The real reason I’m doing this is I need to be a citizen today – in the most profound way possible. And I need to honor Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Jesus and do it in a serious nonviolent way.

What are the decisions this General Assembly has made that I find so troubling that I am willing to stand in front of the chamber doors blocking their way?

There are too many to enumerate here.  For now, I want to just share a few that are personal to me. Read More

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In case you missed it over the holiday weekend, Raleigh News & Observer columnist Rob Christensen had an excellent column that took state lawmakers to task for five proposals that will adversely impact the quality of North Carolina’s democracy:

  • The proposed demise of SBI independence,
  • The end of publicly-financed judicial campaigns,
  • The proposed expansion of political patronage hiring,
  • Expanded secrecy in personnel grievance proceedings, and
  • Making it harder for average citizens to vote.

As Christensen notes:

“The Republicans came into office as reformers promising a broom to clean up the mess left by the Democrats. As my mom liked to say, the proof is in the pudding.”

He might have added that right now, the pudding is watery and tastes lousy. Read the entire column by clicking here.

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Senate bill introduction deadlines are conspiring to generate a flood of new proposals in the North Carolina Senate this week. Impending House deadlines will produce a similar affect on the other side of the Legislative Building in the coming days.

Advocates and observers are only just skimming some of the scores of bill filed for introduction in the Senate today, but a preliminary look is pretty darned frightening — especially in the elections law realm where conservatives have introduced several new bills to further restrict voting here, here, herehere and here.  

Among the disturbing proposals: Read More