Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Tonight: “Notorious RBG” to speak in Raleigh for Meredith College event

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will speak tonight in Raleigh as part of a Meredith College lecture series.

There are no longer tickets available for tonight’s installment of the Lillian Parker Wallace Lecture Series, but to make it more accessible to the public, the college is offering two viewing alternatives — a live-stream online and another that will be broadcast at Jones Auditorium on campus. That broadcast is open to the public and free to attend.

Ginsburg, 86, is known for her work to advance women’s rights and has become a cultural icon, particularly in the age of President Donald Trump. She is a liberal-leaning associate Supreme Court Justice who has been outspoken on the bench about voting, civil rights and gender equality.

She’s vowed to continue her work on the high court until at least January 2021 to avoid giving Trump a third appointment, despite some health setbacks. She completed radiation just weeks ago for her fourth battle with cancer.

Ginsburg — affectionately nicknamed the “Notorious RGB” — will be in conversation with Meredith College alumna Suzanne Reynolds, the first woman to serve as dean of the Wake Forest University School of Law, according to the press announcement.

Reynolds is known nationally for her expertise in family law and was a principal drafter of statutes that modernized the laws regarding both alimony and adoption. She is the author of a three-volume treatise on North Carolina family law that has become the authoritative source for law students, lawyers, and judges.

Meredith College is a private university in Raleigh grounded in the liberal arts. The school only accepts women as undergraduates, but the student body has grown to nearly 2,000, including men who are part of the graduate programs, according to its website.

The event will start at 7:30 p.m. in Meymandi Concert Hall at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. The Jones Auditorium, for anyone who wishes to attend the live-stream there, is located at 3800 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh. You can view the online live-stream here.

NC Policy Watch reporter Melissa Boughton will be covering the event. Follow her on Twitter, and check Policy Watch tomorrow for a recap.

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Now that new maps are enacted, political scientist Bitzer takes a look at partisan data

A PlanScore analysis of new enacted maps posted on Old North State Politics

North Carolina lawmakers have enacted new remedial maps after a court ordered redraw to fix House and Senate districts that were gerrymandered to entrench the Republicans in power.

They have until 5 p.m. tomorrow to submit those maps to the court, and parties to Common Cause v. Lewis have until 5 p.m. Oct. 4 to object to the maps and supply any alternative maps.

Lawmakers were barred by the court from using political data during the remedial redistricting process, but now that it’s over, Catawba College political scientist Michael Bitzer has analyzed the new maps for his blog, Old North State Politics.

Both sets of new maps saw a decrease in the efficiency gap, partisan bias, and mean-median differences from the 2018 maps, according to Bitzer.

He explains that his work is based on using the website PlanScore.org and creating a classification based on its analysis of the districts and predicted vote shares for both parties based on 2016 election data.

My classification system is:

  • Those districts with greater than 60 percent for one party: “likely” party district
  • Those districts with between 55 and 60 percent vote share for one party: “lean” party district
  • Those districts with between 50 and 55 percent vote share for one party: “competitive but favor one party” district

A few reminders before reading much further: the following analysis only paints the districts as potentially within one of these six categories based on 2016 election data. As I discussed yesterday on Twitter in a length thread, my interest is in ‘explaining’ and understanding how politics works, and one of my research interests is in North Carolina redistricting, electoral behavior, and voting patterns. For those partisans and political operatives who want to ‘read’ into these classifications that their party will win, have fun: that’s not my job. Again, as I indicated in the Twitter thread, my job is to help educated and hopefully provide context and analysis to understanding North Carolina politics. This redistricting is a major component of North Carolina politics, and thus my analysis hopefully gives a sense of where things stand in these districts in a ‘2016-based’ performance.

Bitzer shows his results through charts and graphs with a comparison to previous maps. Read the full analysis here.

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Judges appoint referee in partisan gerrymandering case; give lawmakers 1 more day to make maps

The three-judge panel in North Carolina’s ongoing partisan gerrymandering case has appointed Stanford Law professor Nathaniel Persily as a referee to help review and possibly redraw remedial maps submitted by the General Assembly.

Persily was the plaintiffs’ choice in Common Cause v. Lewis. The Republican legislative defendants had suggested the court jointly appoint Art Pope — a well-known conservative financier and former Republican lawmaker — and Gerry Cohen — a retired General Assembly attorney and longtime state government insider.

“The court is satisfied that Professor Persily has the requisite qualifications and experience to serve as referee in this matter,” the judges wrote in an order released today. “Professor Persily has beneficial experience, having served as the special master in the Covington litigation, as well as extensive and impressive practical and academic experience in the field. [He] has also consulted about election matters on a bipartisan basis, has no apparent conflicts of interest, and has time available to complete the work required by his appointment as referee in this matter.”

The North Carolina v. Covington case involved racial gerrymandering — lawmakers were found to have unconstitutionally drawn state House and Senate districts in 2011 to weaken Black voting power.

The judges in Common Cause plan to release a separate order at a later date providing for Persily’s instructions as referee in the matter.

The order released today gives lawmakers an extra day to turn in remedial maps — they are due by 5 p.m. Sept. 19. It also outlines how they should format the maps to turn into the court.

Lawmakers have until 5 p.m. Sept. 23 to turn in transcripts, amendments, justifications for the maps and more. Any parties to the case have until 5 p.m. Sept. 27 to object to the remedial maps. Any parties after that would then have until 5 p.m. Oct. 4 to respond to the objection and provide an alternative remedial map.

The Senate and House redistricting committees passed its final remedial maps today, but will jointly hear public comment at noon Monday before floor votes. Members of the public who wish to speak about the maps can do so in room 643 of the Legislative Office Building. There will be a video live stream of the hearing.

The Senate redistricting committee approved its maps almost unanimously, while the House approved its maps along party lines. There were some disagreements there about last minute changes to some of the districts.

Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California Irvine School of Law and author of Election Law Blog, speculated that the court would ultimately employ Persily to redraw the legislature’s maps — given the process he’s been watching — and that both Democrats and Republicans would be disappointed in the final outcome.

What kind of maps will Persily draw? I expect based on his track record that he will draw fair maps that will disappoint both sides. Almost by definition, the maps will provide less Republican advantage than the old maps. While Republicans will likely accuse Persily of bias (and did when he drew less Republican, but still Republican-leaning maps to cure partisan gerrymandering in congressional maps under the Pennsylvania state constitution), Democrats were not happy with the maps Persily drew in Georgia in the Larios case, and Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was not happy with maps Persily drew in a New York case. Both Democrats and Republicans have called for Persily to draw fair maps in the past.

Read the full court order from today below.



18 CVS 14001 Order 9 13 2019 (Text)

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Court-ordered redistricting moving full steam ahead

Senators on Tuesday evening went through several maps to explain where their district lines exist. They are taking part in a court-ordered remedial redistricting process. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

A lot has happened in four days of nonstop redistricting at the North Carolina legislature, and it’s expected lawmakers will wrap up their voting maps today.

Republican lawmakers were ordered to redraw several House and Senate districts by Sept. 18 after a court found they violated the state constitution while creating the 2017 legislative maps by using extreme partisan gerrymandering to dilute the Democrats’ voting strength.

House and Senate redistricting committees embarked on their redistricting journey — void of partisan considerations, which the court banned from use — Monday and have been working day and night ever since to get the process over with.

The Senate was moving faster than the House and was almost set to consider amendments to its base map Thursday, but reviewing those amendments and making changes took up more time than was expected. They are, though, expected to vote on the amendments today and ultimately vote the final map out to the Senate floor.

It’s not expected the Senate will take a floor vote today.

The House is expected to take a floor vote today. Once it picked out its base maps Wednesday, the mapmaking process picked up pace and lawmakers who were double-bunked spent Thursday working on unpairing themselves.

While the court banned partisanship, it did say lawmakers could take incumbency protection into reasonable account. The process the House used at first to unpair lawmakers was transparent and easy to follow, but things were not so easy by the end of the night.

The group ended the night by voting along party lines (12-6) to make unnecessary changes to the Columbus-Pender-Robeson cluster. Democrats voted against the change, because there was no explanation for it. They said the cluster was being treated different from all the other clusters they already voted on.

Rep. Brenden Jones (R-Columbus, Robeson) did not “yield” for a question from another lawmaker asking for more information about the decision to split a precinct.

The House committee will reconvene at 9 a.m. in room 643 of the Legislative Office Building. It is expected to take up any last amendments and vote the map to the House floor. It’s expected the House will also vote on it today.

The Senate committee will reconvene at 9 a.m. to finish work and will begin voting out amendments at 11:30 a.m. in room 544 of the Legislative Office Building. It’s not expected that the full Senate will vote today on the final map.

The entire remedial redistricting process is being streamed online. Watch the video live streams here. The images below capture some of the redistricting process over the past couple days.

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Senate Redistricting Committee posts base county cluster maps for remedial redistricting process

The North Carolina Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee posted its base county cluster maps late last night — as well as a base statewide map — that they will work from to create new districts after a court found they used unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering in the last round of redistricting.

The maps will serve as a starting point for the Senate, and it’s expected members will make amendments to improve districts for complete compliance with the court’s order in Common Cause v. Lewis.

The committee spent most of Tuesday arguing over which methodology and which maps were best to use during the remedial process. Once they nailed down the logistics, they used a borrowed state lottery machine to randomly select the top five ranked maps (for compactness, split municipalities and split voting districts) for each county cluster — there are seven.

The House Redistricting Committee spent most of Tuesday waiting for Republican defense counsel to verify the data the plaintiffs sent them was correct. When they proceeded later in the day, they argued over the same issues as the Senate — which methodology was best and which maps were the purest — a set of 1,000 that only took traditional criteria into account or a set of 1,000 that took that criteria and incumbency protection (from 2011 and 2017) into account.

The House committee is expected to continue that process Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. in room 643 of the Legislative Office Building. The Senate committee will also reconvene Wednesday at 9 a.m. in room 544 of the Legislative Office Building.

Members of the public can attend the meetings in person or watch a video live-stream online. They can also submit public comments online to both the House committee and the Senate committee.

See each of the Senate base maps below. NC Policy Watch has also obtained the shapefiles for the base maps for the public and is considering the best option for posting them online. In the meantime, members of the public wishing to obtain the shapefiles can email melissa@ncpolicywatch.com.  Read more