Commentary, Defending Democracy

Editorial: Federal judges right to dismiss GOP redistricting pleas

As Policy Watch reporter Melissa Boughton reported late last night, the three judges overseeing an end to racial gerrymandering in North Carolina legislative maps have dismissed the latest absurd pleas of Republican lawmakers that they should be provided with yet another opportunity to redraw the districts they have kept illegal and unconstitutional for seven years.

Yesterday’s lead editorial in the Greensboro News & Record (“Do it right, at last”) did a fine job of explaining why this was an eminently reasonable decision by the court. After explaining the absurd gerrymandering that has occurred in Guilford County and the court’s plan to appoint a special master to redraw the maps, the editorial concluded this way:

“State Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) and Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) complained that the court’s remedy ‘could seize a fundamental right from the people of North Carolina and hand it to a single person with no accountability to North Carolinians.’ Legislative lawyers also accused Persily of making critical comments about their redistricting in the past.

These objections warrant no sympathy. The people of North Carolina, and certainly the people of Guilford County, haven’t had their rights respected by legislators who manipulate elections for partisan advantage. Legislators can’t be held accountable when they craft safe districts for themselves. Elections are meaningless when outcomes are determined in advance.

Guilford County numbers illustrate how unbalanced these districts are. There were nine legislative contests here last November. In six, only one candidate appeared on the ballot. Of the others, one was decided by 57 percentage points and a second by 20. Only Republican Sen. Trudy Wade’s 53 percent to 47 percent victory over Democrat Michael Garrett in Senate District 27 was competitive.

As for Persily, his views seem to be in line with those of the court, making him a good choice to carry out the court’s will.

This has gone on long enough. The court issued its initial finding of improper gerrymandering in 28 districts in August 2016. It allowed the legislature ample time to make corrections. Lawmakers failed to address problems in nine of those districts. The court’s patience has nearly run out and the legislature deserves no more chances. The court must finish the job itself with the help of an independent expert.

Guilford County voters should demand fair districts so they can elect representatives who answer to all the people, not just to one political party. That’s not strange, that’s democracy.”

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