Map fixes: Constitutional?

Posted November 7, 2011

The technical corrections bills fixing the legislation for the redistricting maps didn’t look likely to be controversial going into today’s session. After all, Republicans argued, the maps had already been approved by the US Department of Justice.

The issue, they said, was merely a technical glitch. The software they used to translate the map into hundreds of thousands of 13-digit numbers had inadvertently left thousands of census blocks out of the final legislation.

In total, the House map omitted 267,296 voters. The Senate map left out 184,794. And the Congressional maps left out 23,777. Some voters may have been omitted from more than one map, though, so the real number of affected voters is probably less than the total of those numbers, just over 475,000.

But those voters weren’t left hanging. According to state law, census blocks that aren’t assigned are put into whatever adjoining district has the least voters.

The result, according to both Democrats and nonpartisan staffers, is hodgepodge maps that don’t pass constitutional muster. The fix bills were meant to make the legislation match up with the maps.

That’s where things get complicated. The Republicans say the maps are the defining document of intent, so it’s okay to change the law enacting them if errors in the law cause conflict with the maps. House session Democrats call fix to voting maps unconstitutional

Democrats, on the other hand, say when it comes to legislation, it’s not the maps that matter, it’s the words in the bill that makes the maps into law.

At issue is a provision in the state constitution that bars lawmakers from tinkering with “established” maps before the next decentennial census. That would be in 2021.

The only other way to fix the map bills would be to get a judge to declare them unconstitutional, which could potentially open a can of worms the GOP would rather not revisit. So they opted to address the problem through legislation. 

Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, says that's no more constitutional than the error-laden bill is. Glazier Glazier on fixes and the constitution

“The Republicans have us here under what they’re calling a ‘curative’ bill – ‘curative’ meaning simply an interpretation,” Glazier said. “This isn’t an interpretation. They left 400,000 people out of the process.”

“Now they’re trying to fix it by creating a second constitutional problem,” he said. “You can’t sort of fix one constitutional problem by creating another one. And they are stuck with the mess they’ve created – we are all stuck with the mess they’ve created – and in fact the problem is that the plans were entirely unconstitutional.”

Glazier said the ultimate remedy rests with the courts. The issue will likely come up again in one or both of the lawsuits filed by critics of the maps.

House Speaker Thom Tillis said he’s not worried that the courts will find the map bill fixes unconstitutional.

“Nor is the Attorney General, who worked with us in consultation and actually consulted with the [U.S] Department of Justice,” he added tonight.


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  • marktroll Nov 16, 2011

    The Obama appointed DOJ gave the maps pre-clearance and approved them to be enacted. The only thing that stands in the way now are a few lawsuits, ones that must clear the hurdles that the Democrats put in place in the early 2000's to thwart Republican efforts to fight redistricting at the time. Democrat facepalm.

  • PoBoy Nov 10, 2011

    By now, it really doesn't matter if its constitutional or not. The map of NC has been ripped apart by the warring parties for so many years now, folks have to call their election ofices to see where they vote!

  • matthewwood007 Nov 10, 2011



  • matthewwood007 Nov 10, 2011

    What do term limits have to do with gerrymandering...And the voting rights act would probably make the story pertinent

  • marktroll Nov 9, 2011

    i cant believe someone wasted the time to write this story holy moly

  • joeblink Nov 9, 2011

    The real solution: term limits, for EVERY elected position at EVERY level of government. Longer limits, but limits, on judicial appointments. Limit on length of time for staff to elected officials.

  • josephlawrence43 Nov 8, 2011

    Oh--the poor, pitiful, put upon Demitts--weeping and wailing still...

  • faperrigo Nov 8, 2011

    Countries such as the UK, Australia, Canada and most of those in Europe have transferred responsibility for too many things to supposedly neutral or cross-party bodies. There is no such thing as appointed neutral bodies. It is time for a stop to 11% voter turn-out. We need 50-60% voter turn-out to solve the problem of greedy politicians.

  • genralwayne Nov 8, 2011

    Countries such as the UK, Australia, Canada and most of those in Europe have transferred responsibility for defining constituency boundaries to neutral or cross-party bodies to prevent gerrymandering.

    In the United States, however, such reforms are controversial and frequently meet particularly strong opposition from groups that benefit from gerrymandering. In a more neutral system, they might lose considerable influence.

    Does this state not have a single true leader? I'm tired of seeing the populace pounded by indifferent and greedy politicians from both sides of the aisle.

  • ljohnson247 Nov 8, 2011

    Voters will still get to vote, right?