Editorial: U.S. Supreme Court casts wary view on gerrymandering

Posted February 6, 2018 5:00 a.m. EST
Updated February 6, 2018 5:53 a.m. EST

Gerrymandering  (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

CBC Editorial: Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018; Editorial # 8265
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

If there was any doubt that state Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore, redistricting czars Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Ralph Hise and others in the North Carolina legislature’s Republican leadership are marching to the beat of a drummer only they can hear, the U.S. Supreme Court offered loud and clear evidence Monday.

We can only hope the message made it through to Berger and his gang.

Justice Samuel Alito turned down a request from the state’s Republicans to delay redrawing congressional district lines. He said GOP legislative leaders in Pennsylvania violated the state constitution by unfairly favoring Republicans.

While Democrats outnumber Republicans in Pennsylvania, the GOP holds 13 of the state’s 18 House congressional seats. While Alito’s order didn’t go into any specifics, on matters of state law, the rulings of state courts are generally considered final.

The U.S. Supreme Court has been busy these days with a variety of gerrymandering and voting rights cases – a flood from North Carolina alone, not to mention Wisconsin, Texas and Maryland – mostly flowing from the federal courts.

While the Monday’s decision on the Pennsylvania gerrymandering case doesn’t have any direct impact on the pending cases in North Carolina, it is a sign worth heeding and it is still significant. Don’t take our word for it.

“It is the most significant victory by critics of the way most congressional and legislative districts are drawn and a sign that their efforts will be felt as early as this fall’s midterm elections,” reported Bob Barnes who covers the Supreme Court for The Washington Post. “Federal courts in Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin found that politics or intentional discrimination played an unacceptable role in drawing electoral lines and ordered new districts in place for the 2018 elections, but the Supreme Court stopped those decisions.”

The Hill, a newspaper that focuses on coverage of Congress, reported: “The decision is a significant victory for opponents of gerrymandering, who have also taken the fight to Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin.”

Since the earliest days of the current decade, North Carolinians have lived under an illegal scheme of representation. Now, with just days before candidates are set to file for election, even the state’s system for administering elections is in limbo – since the state Supreme Court recently ruled the efforts to reorganize the state Boards of elections and ethics violated the state constitution’s separation of powers clauses.

All of these complications and delays have been inflicted upon the citizens of the state by political zealots determined, regardless of the will of the majority, to impose their ideology and enshrine their rule.

In dictatorships like Russia, elections are phony affirmations of the leadership’s stranglehold on power.

In democracies elections are the regular and frequent consent of the citizens – regardless of where they live, their religion, race, gender or political affiliation – to grant to fellow citizens the privilege to temporally govern on their behalf.

With just a week to go until filing for the 2018 elections begins, it is past time for the leaders of the General Assembly to end their massive resistance, delays and obstruction. Put an end to the challenges and agree to the court orders in the redistricting and other legal cases. While they’re at it, close-down efforts to redraw the state’s judicial districts and cancel elections.

Just as important, they should begin now – the legislature is in session after all -- to develop a system for non-partisan congressional and legislative redistricting, to be put to use in a couple of years, after the next national Census. Further, develop a state constitutional amendment, put it before the voters as soon as possible and leave no-doubt this is the will of the people.

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