Editorial: As legislature bumbles and delays on redistricting, court needs to be swift and decisive
Posted August 25
CBC Editorial: Friday, Aug. 25, 2017; Editorial # 8203
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
If the North Carolina General Assembly’s latest maps for state House and Senate districts address the racial discrimination concerns of federal judges, it is merely in the most token way. While supposedly looking to adhere to the letter of the federal court’s directive -- the legislative leadership produced a redistricting plan that perpetuates the same fatal flaws of the old one.
"It is plain that in several areas of both the House and Senate proposed maps, the constitutional violations are not cured and, indeed, the racially gerrymandering continues," said Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “What is clear is that these districts do not fully correct the constitutional violations identified by the three-judge panel."
She’s right, of course.
In the Senate plan, African-American voters are largely packed into about a dozen districts. In the House, it’s about 17 districts. The impact, if the districts stand, will likely let the legislature’s Republicans maintain a veto-proof majority.
How steep a climb would Democrats face to overcome the GOP rigging of legislative elections?
The plans are so skewed that Republicans need to capture a mere 46 percent of the vote statewide to maintain control of the state House and Senate, while Democrats would need to win 55 percent of the vote to gain majorities.
“Both the proposed House Plan and the proposed Senate plan will likely provide a large and durable advantage to Republican voters and candidates in the coming two elections,” said Ruth Greenwood, senior legal counsel for the Campaign Legal Center. “By historical standards, these are extraordinarily large figures revealing an enormous Republican edge.”
The edge isn’t gained by voter behavior or effective campaigning but by discriminating against voters because of their race. That’s wrong. In the United States, that’s against the law.
What has become amply clear is that the legislative leadership is doing as little as possible to comply with the federal court’s redistricting order. Rather than take the opportunity to actively inform and involve the public in the process, legislators have been content to do the least they can get away with.
As anyone who sought to follow Tuesday’s public hearings learned, the many technical glitches and disorganization reflected a token effort at best by legislators who obviously have their minds made up.
There are even Republican legislators, knowing what was coming even before the latest plans were disclosed, who already have announced future political plans. It’s clear the skids are greased and the public hearings were merely for show.
The people of North Carolina deserve better.
Rather than dilly-dally, legislative leaders need to end their charade and send their plan on to the courts – ahead of the Sept. 1 deadline.
The legislature has left the court little choice but to impose a redistricting plan of its own. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice has offered up sample House and Senate redistricting plans, Common Cause of North Carolina and other groups have provided nonpartisan methods for drawing legislative district lines.
We hope the court will act quickly and decisively.
Come the 2018 campaign season, it will be unfair to voters – and even candidates – to be uncertain about districts and election dates. It is time for the legislature to stop playing games and the court to put a plan for fair representation into place.
That way voters will be fairly represented in the General Assembly and fully informed when they cast ballots. Imagine that.