RALEIGH – A judicial panel of the 4th Circuit U.S. COurt of Appeals has issued an opinion Tuesday that North Carolina’s congressional maps, drawn by Republicans in 2016, are unconstitutional. Racial gerrymandering? No; this time the federal judges say the maps are no good because of ‘partisan gerrymandering.’
Partisan gerrymandering violates “the core principle of republican government . . . that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around,” the majority opinion states.
Well, well. If legislative majorities expressing their electoral mandates via redistricting is unconstitutional, then courts must have been actively ignoring the issue for the last century or more. Or maybe, more accurately, litigious Democrats have found a well of activist judges that share the same disdain for Republicans’ sweeping victories and policy reforms?
N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said it was a “major victory for North Carolina and people across the state whose voices were silenced by Republicans’ unconstitutional attempts to rig the system to their partisan advantage.”
Of course, Democrats are elated. It is essentially a judicial opinion that usurps power from the representative branch of government to the benefit of Democrats. Not the minority -Democrats. Because we all know none of this would be happening if Democrats had done the exact same thing.
It is not a major victory for the North Carolina people; it is a major victory for Democrats, and Democrats only.
So just who are these judges?
No surprises here – two of the three are Liberal appointments by two of the most Liberal presidents in recent history.
James A. Wynn, a Barack Obama appointee, and federal district judges W. Earl Britt, a Jimmy Carter appointee.
Rounded out by an overreaching William L. Osteen Jr., a George W. Bush appointee, who joined the other two in a unanimous decision that Republican leadership violated the U.S. Constitution’s equal-protection clause when they drew maps explicitly to favor their party.
N.C. GOP head Dallas Woodhouse called out the judges, and Wynn specifically, for what they are – partisan tools on the bench. Wynn has been part of other recent opinions that ruled N.C. legislative district maps unconstitutional for ‘racial gerrymandering’ – even when mapmakers tried again with racial data completely eliminated from consideration! – as well as opinions that struck down common sense voter I.D..
— Dallas Woodhouse (@DallasWoodhouse) January 9, 2018
Woodhouse added to his tweet later: “It is Now very clear that Judge Wynn has decided that @ncgop should not be allowed to draw election districts under any circumstances under any set of rules. This is a hostile takeover of the #NCGA and legislative bodies across the U.S.”
Just to emphasize the importance and danger of this decision, this is the first time that partisan gerrymandering has ever been used to strike down congressional districts. Why? Because until now the judiciary understood that their branch had no business weighing in on a task exclusively delegated to the legislative branch.
“The Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly expressly directed the legislators and consultant responsible for drawing the 2016 Plan to rely on ‘political data’ — past election results specifying whether, and to what extent, particular voting districts had favored Republican or Democratic candidates, and therefore were likely to do so in the future — to draw a districting plan that would ensure Republican candidates would prevail in the vast majority of the state’s congressional districts,” wrote Wynn in the opinion.
For all their talk about fair elections, Democrats sure seem to put an awful lot of weight on the opinion of three un-elected judges, but I digress.
To make matters worse, the court asked the legislature to provide new maps by January 29 – less than three weeks!
Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) called that timeline “unreasonable” in one of the biggest understatements of the year so far. Legislative leaders plan on appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
This is where President Trump’s successful nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch is so important. Hopefully the Supreme Court will have more restraint from leading the judiciary into encroaching on legislative authorities.