Editorial: GOP must accept federal court order, move on nonpartisan redistricting
Posted November 30
A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, Nov.30, 2016; Editorial# 8088
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
While much of North Carolina’s political establishment is enmeshed in bickering over an election that happened three weeks ago, the next major task on the electoral horizon is a mere six weeks away.
Late Tuesday the U.S. federal court gave the General Assembly its first order of business when it convenes on Jan. 11, 2017. The court ordered the legislature, by March 15, 2017 to draw new state House and state Senate districts. The deadline, the court said, “will allow the Court enough time to consider whether the State has remedied its unconstitutional gerrymander and to act if it does not.”
Since 2012, the General Assembly has been conducting business and passing laws even though it does so as an unconstitutionally gerrymandered legislature. To continue in that fashion, any longer than absolutely necessary, is perpetuating the illegal scheme that the court correctly ordered changed.
The court has ordered the legislature to expedite its development of new, and constitutional,districts and to schedule new elections – a primary in late August or early September and a general election in early November. Every day this unconstitutionally composed legislature meets casts a cloud over the integrity of its actions.
While legislative leaders initial reaction to Tuesday’s court order was reflexively obstinate and defiant, we urge them to reconsider and start the process now of developing new representative districts. Past experience is convincing that further appeals will be unsuccessful, wasting time and taxpayer dollars.
Legislative leaders should move quickly to form a bipartisan study commission to come up with a plan for the development of new districts.
Critical to such a plan is the formation of a non-partisan commission that will develop the redistricting plan. The mandate for the commission should be simple: Create 120 state House and 50 state Senate districts that are geographically compact without ANY consideration of political party registration or voting history. The districts must be equal in population and comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.
It may seem like a tall order, but as a nonpartisan panel of North Carolina judges proved earlier this year, it can be done in a business-like manner that will assure proper and full representation of all North Carolinians.
The federal court panel of Appeals Court Judge James Wynn with District Court judges Catherine Eagles and Thomas Schroeder, was clear in its order and its direction. The leadership of the General Assembly has a simple choice.
- It can get down to the business of assuring North Carolinians they will have proper and legal representatives passing their laws.
- It can continue to play political games, be mired in fruitless, time-consuming and expensive court battles that only bring further distrust of our political institutions.
We urge legislators to choose the former. We cannot afford further delay on the truly important matters facing our state – improving our public education system, developing an economy that spreads opportunity throughout the state and assures a clean environment and high standard of living for all North Carolinians.
Action is now needed.