RALEIGH – If you were wondering if this election cycle would be graced by the recently customary gerrymandering charges and judicial orders drama, wonder no longer. A three-judge panel Tuesday ruled against maps (re)drawn by Republicans in 2017, asserting that they were drawn with “partisan intent” to perpetuate Republican majorities. The judicial order also gave the General Assembly until September 18 to produce and submit new preliminary maps that don’t violate the judicial order.
The decision comes after months of wondering what proximity to 2020 elections any map-drawing judicial order would have. Though a little more than a year away, 2020 state legislative candidates are already beginning to sprout with announcements ahead of a year of campaigning. Uncertain changes in the district lines could upset the plans of some of those candidates, who must wait until lines are settled to make sure they fall on the right side of them.
Of course, the central premise of the panel’s ruling — a panel of two Democrats and one Republican, mind you — is in direct contravention to that of the Supreme Court of the United States. Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court weighed in on multiple questions of ‘partisan gerrymandering’ and whether it was unconstitutional, one of which was North Carolina congressional maps. They ruled that partisan bias in map making is inherent and and not expressly unconstitutional; that plaintiffs’ demands of recourse for proportional representation were confused; and, that the judiciary had no real business getting involved in legislative map drawing anyway.
The North Carolina judicial panel challenges that ruling directly, asserting that 2017 redistricting saw the “collective voting strength” of Democrats diluted, resulting in a map that greatly favored Republican candidates. In other words, they (the two Democrat judges) buy the false and ignorant argument that because Democrats make up about half the votes, they should get about half the seats in the state legislature. It’s an argument fundamentally flawed by the fact that proportional representation is irreconcilable with our entire electoral system, and it absolutely discounts the representation of rural voters while handing the keys to the state to urban population centers.
Senate Leader Phil Berger pointed out how backward this judicial ruling is, but vowed to respect it and “move on.”
“We disagree with the court’s ruling as it contradicts the Constitution and binding legal precedent, but we intend to respect the court’s decision and finally put this divisive battle behind us.” he said.
The idea that these legislative maps interfere with ‘free and fair elections’ clauses of the North Carolina Constitution is laughable. What they meant to write was that these particular maps interfere with Democrats’ historic power to run the table the way they did for decades. Not a single Democrat was complaining about their own gerrymandered maps during all those years.
The complaint is also contrasted by Democrats’ recent electoral successes, winning the governor’s race in 2016 and breaking the Republican super-majority in both state legislative chambers. Indeed, the Republicans swept into power on maps drawn by Democrats.
Despite the lack of merit in the judicial panel’s ruling, Roy Cooper and the North Carolina Left are again high-fiving each other after another political score assisted by compromised referees. Wayne Goodwin and the N.C. Democratic Party wasted no time fundraising off the news, praising the courts for ‘leveling the playing field’ for them. Now Republican leadership and map specialists will by busy at work trying to please the court, which should give them something to do during the ongoing budget stand off.