GREENSBORO – The three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court in Greensboro rejected arguments from attorneys representing state Republican lawmakers and pushed ahead with assigning a ‘Special Master’ to redraw certain districts.
The defendants suggested that there was enough time for the N.C. General Assembly to take another crack at bringing the remaining nine districts in question into line with constitutional requirements.
Of the original 28 districts that were ruled unconstitutional gerrymanders because they relied too heavily on race in their construction, two senate districts and seven house districts are still viewed as non-compliant by the court.
The judges ordered new maps to be produced by December 1, leveraging the services of Stanford University professor Nathaniel Persily, who defendants argued was not sufficiently impartial due to relationships and past history.
Nevermind that, said the judges, ordering the Special Master to proceed.
“The state is not entitled to multiple opportunities to remedy its unconstitutional districts,” the order reads, adding the legislators’ objections to Persily “are speculative and insubstantial.”
Amy Auth, a spokeswoman for chairmen of the House and Senate redistricting committees, said late Wednesday the court has quickly seized the constitutional and sovereign right to draw districts from lawmakers to an “unelected California college professor with clear conflicts of interest. We are disturbed the court has apparently planned all along to achieve its preferred political outcome and are reviewing our legal options.”
Lawyers for the Republican legislature are likely to appeal the decision, even while the Special Master begins reviewing data to construct new maps.
The 2011 House districts that Persily is directed to redraw include two each in Mecklenburg, Wake and Guilford counties and one covering parts of Sampson, Duplin and Wayne counties. One Senate district is in Guilford and the other is in parts of Hoke and Cumberland counties.
Districts adjoining the targeted districts also will have to be adjusted. The order also directs Persily to shy away from drawing any districts that don’t have to be, in keeping with a restriction in the state constitution.
Two of the three judges were appointed by President Obama, while one was appointed by President George W. Bush. It is not surprising, therefore, that through out the months long case the Obama appointees have favored arguments that benefit Democrats at the expense of the Republican majority.
When the court asked for Special Master nominees from each side’s attorneys, they claimed they had not decided one way or the other, but were merely anticipating a quick turn around. The recent order makes that explanation seem somewhat disingenuous.
Beyond the details of the order, or the case itself, is the idea that a truly ‘independent’ mapmaker is even a possibility. One way or another, seemingly independent contributors are beholden to some type of bias, not to mention that in this case they are appointed arbitrarily with the voters, or their representatives unable to exert their deserved influence.
Drawing from the world of academia, like a college professor from California, almost insures that that bias favors the Left.
Advocates on both sides of the aisle can clamor for an independent redistricting process until they’re blue in the face, but they are chasing a myth. It is not possible.
That’s why vesting the map drawing powers with the legislature is the closest one can get to ideal, because lawmakers can be held accountable every two years by the people.
Far from securing a permanent majority through ‘racist gerrymandering,’ Republicans won control of the General Assembly in 2010 under maps drawn by Democrats – a clear rebuke of Democrats and their policies – and subsequently expressed this mandate through redistricting in 2011.
If Democrats were so concerned with ‘independent’ bodies drawing maps, they would have legislated such policies during their decades long tenure at the levers of power. Instead they redistricted to protect and project their mandate, as the system allows for. It did not stop Republicans from ousting them in a big way; why would it stop Democrats from regaining control in the future?
It doesn’t. The Democrats’ biggest enemy is not district maps, as they would have the public believe, but unpopular policies and petty identity politics. Expect more of the latter for the foreseeable future.