Editorial: High court's firm ruling paves way for nonpartisan redistricting

Posted May 24

Thursday, May 24, 2017 -- Capitol Broadcasting's editorial cartoonist

A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, May 24, 2017; Editorial # 8165
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

It is time for the leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly to come clean and own up to the truth. They segregated voters along racial lines in gerrymandering the state’s congressional districts in 2011. Race was the main reason for the way the state’s congressional districts were drawn and no spin or tortured logic can hide it.

The proof came Monday in a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling that laid bare the racial gerrymandering of the state’s First Congressional District. “North Carolina (gave) no good reason to reshuffle voters because of their race,” Justice Elena Kagan said in her majority opinion. The court split 5-3 concerning the meandering 12th Congressional District, where the majority said: “North Carolina has made no attempt to justify race-based districting there.”

It’s time to end the disingenuous comments, like state GOP Chairman Robin Hayes’ harkening to the “Obama Justice Department” to try to justify the illegal districts. That juvenile argument is laughable.

It is clear now that the trend is set and North Carolina’s legislative leaders have consistently been on the losing end of the rulings. It will be no surprise if the courts rule in favor of a pending challenge to gerrymandering of the state’s legislative districts. Yet another federal lawsuit, filed by North Carolina Common Cause, is also challenging the current congressional districts and has strong odds of success.

Enough is enough.

Legislative leaders need to end their stubborn intransigence and start working in earnest on nonpartisan redistricting. They should create a nonpartisan commission to oversee the creation of congressional and legislative districts that will fairly represent all North Carolinians.

The proposal already has broad support – 59 percent of the state’s voters back it and just 17 percent oppose it, according to a January 2017 Public Policy Polling survey of state voters. Republicans favor it -- 49 percent for and just 17 percent against.

It is not an impossible task. A year ago a nonpartisan group of retired judges came up with a perfectly workable congressional district map, using independent, objective criteria and without considering political party registration to create 13 geographically compact districts. They were equal in population and complied with the federal Voting Rights Act.

There’s a bipartisan solution sitting in the House Rules Committee right now. {{a href="external_link-4}}"House Bill 200: Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission”{{/a}} has four Republican main sponsors and 34 other Democrats and Republicans who are co-sponsors.

The legislation would establish a redistricting process setting out nonpartisan criteria for professional staffers to develop congressional and legislative districts. Their work would be overseen by an advisory commission.

Despite early indications, House Speaker Tim Moore has refused to allow even a hearing on the bill. After Monday’s Supreme Court loss, Moore needs to recognize the wiser course and seize the momentum to become a reform leader and consensus builder instead of a status-quo enforcer.

All North Carolinians deserve fair and full representation in Congress and the General Assembly. That is not the case today. Our legislative leaders remain on the wrong side of this issue, politically and morally.

It is time for them to stop fighting a losing battle.


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