Commentary

National columnist: NC fall congressional elections poised to become a “logistical nightmare”

It’s always worth reading Esquire political columnist Charles P. Pierce even when he isn’t writing about his former home state of North Carolina. The man could make you care about an election for dogcatcher and have you in stitches at the same time.

Today’s column, however, is entitled “The North Carolina Primaries Just Became a Logistical Nightmare” and in it, Pierce does a great job of explaining the mess in which Republican lawmakers have put us in the aftermath of yesterday’s federal court gerrymandering ruling. After explaining the ruling and the fact that  “denying some Americans the ballot is now the official policy of the Republican Party in this country at every level of government,” Pierce puts it this way:

“In any event, what North Carolina is left with at the moment is a logistical nightmare. Even assuming good faith on both sides, and assuming that a 4-4 Supreme Court will be there to leave the lower court decision in place, the state already has held primaries under the newly rejected maps which, under the latest federal court ruling, means that those elections were illegitimate, having been held under a system now ruled in violation of the Constitution. This should be fun.”

After going on to quote Washington Post coverage for the proposition that the court has proposed several unusual ideas, including “appointing a special master to draw new districts, holding general elections without party primaries or even turning the November elections into a primary and holding the general election sometime before the new Congress convenes in January,”

Pierce continues:

“And yes, that latter proposal contains the seeds of a very wild holiday season since control of the House of Representatives could ride on elections held in North Carolina immediately before the opening session of the new Congress. But it is quite clear that the federal court in that state simply has had enough. The decision kicked the state legislature’s ass halfway to Tennessee. It decided that, by rigging the maps, the legislature violated both the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment. It made it clear that the plaintiffs have standing to bring the suit, the loophole through which the Supreme Court dove to avoid deciding the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering in Gill. Moreover, the federal court mentions an intriguing argument that arose during the Gill case—that, by grotesquely rigging the district maps, the legislature violated the guarantee under Article IV of the Constitution that ‘every state should have a republican form of government.'”

After quoting James Madison for the proposition that “a gerrymandered legislature inevitably would act to restrict voting rights to perpetuate itself,” Pierce concludes that, at some point, the Supreme Court will have to stop ducking this issue:

“Nobody’s going to be able to duck this question forever. The Republican Party, with its commitment to voter suppression, now has made that impossible.”

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