Commentary, Courts & the Law, Legislature

Editorial: Judges should toss the legislature’s gerrymandered Congressional maps again

Sen. Jerry Tillman

No one will ever confuse our state legislators with cat burglars.

Indeed, as a McClatchy editorial pointed out Tuesday, the N.C. General Assembly’s continued abuse of the map-making process is as obvious as the sun in the sky. The key, of course, is whether the courts see it as such.

Here’s hoping judges were listening when longtime GOP Sen. Jerry Tillman blurted out that the new Congressional maps authored by state lawmakers is, of course, another partisan gerrymander.

It is reason number, oh, 5,000 that the N.C. General Assembly should not be trusted with the redrawing of districts. Calling upon this legislature to create a nonpartisan map is akin to asking a dog to act like a cat.

From the new McClatchy editorial:

It’s sometimes best not to attach too much importance to the things that come out of N.C. Sen. Jerry Tillman’s mouth. He can be the cringe-inducing uncle at the Thanksgiving table, picking unnecessary fights and uttering caustic remarks that make even his fellow Republicans wince. But last Friday, as the N.C. Senate debated a new round of Congressional district maps, Tillman grabbed a microphone and sprinkled some revealing truth into his usual dose of snideness. We hope that Superior Court judges, who will soon declare whether those those Congressional districts are valid, were listening.

Tillman was apparently offended that Democrats were ungrateful about the new maps, which would likely result in an 8-5 Congressional majority for Republicans instead of the 10-3 edge that the current gerrymandered maps gives the GOP. Democrats and members of the public argued the maps were still partisan, so Tillman rose to give folks a civics lesson on redistricting.

“Evidently you have not read the Constitution,” said the gentleman from Archdale, who noted that he was “absolutely appalled at the lack of knowledge about what the Constitution says.”

 “It says that in redistricting matters, it is the province of the states and it then becomes the province of the prevailing party. It doesn’t say one thing about splitting a county or a precinct. It doesn’t say anything about being fair.”

So if the prevailing party gets to draw the maps, says Tillman: “Do you think it should be anything other than partisan?”

Well, yes. So do the Superior Court judges who sent the maps back to Republicans last month with the admonition that their “extreme partisan gerrymandering” was “contrary to the fundamental right of North Carolina citizens to have elections conducted freely and honestly to ascertain, fairly and truthfully, the will of the people.”

The new maps, however, suffer from that same kind of extreme gerrymandering. They continue to lock in a predetermined result, just one that’s two districts more favorable to Democrats than the old maps. That might be more palatable to seat counters in Congress, but it’s no better for North Carolina voters.

How sure are those outcomes? Compared to a computer simulation of 1,000 nonpartisan maps, almost every newly drawn district was an extreme partisan outlier, according to a filing Friday from the plaintiffs in Harper v Lewis, who filed suit against the original congressional districts. (Those computer simulations came from the respected Dr. Jowei Chen, whose maps were used by NC Republicans in drawing new and fairer legislative districts for 2020.)

Plaintiffs also argue that several of the districts — including NC-09 and NC-12 that touch Mecklenburg County — are “near carbon copies of the prior gerrymandered districts,” attorney Daniel Jacobson told the editorial board Monday. In other words, the maps that Republicans approved Friday suffer from the same flaws as the maps the judges rejected. They still pack districts demographically to ward off competitiveness. They still steal the voices of voters. They’re still unconstitutional, regardless of Jerry Tillman’s interpretation of what the Constitution might allow.

Notably, when Tillman was done speaking, fellow Republican Sen. Paul Newton noted that Tillman wasn’t involved in the map drawing process. But senators know — as does the public — that what Tillman suggests is true. “It’s set up to be partisan,” he said. “Do you think we’re gonna draw Democrat maps?”

No. Voters just want them to be fair.


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