Editorial: Scheming, procrastinating perpetuate unconstitutional districts
Posted June 13
A CBC Editorial: Tuesday, June 13, 2017; Editorial # 8172
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
As the pressure mounts on the General Assembly to fix its unconstitutional legislative and congressional districts, the leadership has responded in a characteristically partisan manner – the Democrats did it too.
“When Roy Cooper was Chairman of the Democrats’ redistricting committee in the 1990s, he specialized in racial gerrymandering and partisan redistricting,” Senate Leader Phil Berger said on Facebook last week.
Well, is he saying that since Democrats did it, Republicans can now do it? We thought the current legislature’s leadership ran on “cleaning up” things, not doubling down on the past. We are all aware that both parties have used gerrymandering for partisan advantage.
This is not about partisanship it’s about fairness.
Attacking Roy Cooper is not the point. The courts have determined, in no uncertain terms, that since 2012 members of THIS state legislature have been elected from unconstitutional districts. That is three successive elections. Enough is enough.
“We need to go through a process of seeking public input, seeking input from folks who have opinions,” Berger said late last week. That’s interesting since Berger was one of the prime architects of the illegal redistricting plan that took barely seven days from revelation to enactment.
“We have to have a clear direction from the three-judge panel as to what it is they are asking us to do with reference to the maps, “Berger added. We agree.
The record of partisan gamesmanship this General Assembly has amassed has hit an all-time low. It would be foolish to believe the legislature will, on its own, come up with a fair and constitutional set of legislative districts.
The court should be direct and specific on what the legislature must do, how to do it and set a firm deadline on when it needs to be done. If they fail, the judges should impose their own redistricting plan.
Gov. Cooper Monday called for, and the court could order, special elections this year. But even with an eye toward the next regular election in 2018, there would be a late February filing-for-office deadline for a May primary. Legislative district lines would need to be in place well before that – perhaps by the end of 2017 – so candidates know which districts they might run in.
The court should order the new districts be:
- Compact -- coincide with the boundaries of political subdivisions (cities and counties).
- Contiguous -- districts linked only at the corners are NOT contiguous.
- In line with state and federal law – meet state constitutional mandates including avoiding splitting counties (Article II, sections 3.3 and 5.3) and adhering to the federal Voting Rights Act.
- Nonpartisan -- Ignore partisan voter registration or results of past elections.
These requirements are not onerous or impossible. Organizations in North Carolina have already demonstrated it can be accomplished in a matter of days.
If the legislature will not follow the guidelines, the court should use the same criteria and draw districts itself.
Fair redistricting is not brain surgery. It is time for the legislature to end its costly procrastination and do its job.