RALEIGH – Reducing electoral politics down to statistical metrics can only get you so far. The human component is fundamental to elections, which should be obvious to any honest observer, but is purposely overlooked by those suing Republican lawmakers over state legislative maps drawn in 2017.
The plaintiffs, Common Cause NC and the N.C. Democratic Party, complain that Republicans that year drew and enacted legislative maps that were unfair and eliminate chances of Democrats winning enough seats to take a majority in the General Assembly.
The defendants, the 2017 class of leading Republican lawmakers, say that’s nonsense. Most of Democrats’ problems, they say, are that their candidates suck and Republicans approach to the issues that matter in locales across the Old North State is simply more popular.
Over the last week or so each side has put witnesses on the stand, from mathematicians to lawmakers, to make their case.
N.C. House Majority Leader John Bell (R-Wayne) offered some real talk when put on the stand.
From Courthouse News Service:
“[…] After a line of questioning conducted by the defendant legislators’ counsel on Wednesday, Bell said that the quality of candidates, incumbency advantages and local issues could explain the large amount of Republican-held districts in the state after the 2018 midterm elections.
Eastern North Carolina, especially the 4th State House District, was “ground zero” for nuisance lawsuits over the hog industry, Bell said. Opposition to hog farm nuisance lawsuits was a major factor in 2018 Republican candidates winning some legislative districts where agriculture is the center of life.
Bell cited about 35 districts he believes could be competitive for Democrats in the 2020 elections, including the Senate district of defendant David Lewis, who oversaw 2017 redistricting. […]”
The Leftists trying to get the maps thrown out, and presumably hoping that the court will overstep its bounds to call for new maps that benefit Democrats, used mathematicians as expert witnesses that said the maps were statistical outliers and must of contained bias.
No matter that the Supreme Court of the United States has already dismissed Democrats’ complaints about partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina’s congressional districts. The high court essentially said the complaint amounts to whining to the judiciary for proportional representation, when we have no such electoral system. Partisan gerrymandering is constitutional and it’d be wrong for courts to speak to such political questions, they ruled; that’s what elections are for.
But this case deals with state legislative maps, so the Left thinks they have another shot at political victory via judicial activism. The plaintiffs brought out mathematicians to argue that the 2017 state district maps are statistical outliers that include a partisan bias. As American author Mark Twain let us know, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Bell certainly gets it:
“[…] Numbers don’t quite cut it, Bell explained, when it comes to human constituents affected by various local and national issues.
“You’re pulling statistics, but if I’ve got a great candidate in that seat, I can win it and maintain it. If I have a horrible candidate in that seat, then we have problems,” Rep. Bell said. […]”
Other witnesses for the defense echoed the same sentiment. Karen Owen, the director of the Thomas B. Murphy Center for Public Service at the University of West Georgia and an assistant professor of political science, attested that state districts are still competitive and any look at political outcomes and hypothetical is better served by behavioral studies, not numerical ones.
Indeed, as the Democrats are whining that Republicans drew the most Republican-friendly maps possible, an expert in the map-making software demonstrated the ignorance of their claim by easily producing maps that would have benefited Republicans even more.
“At this point, the definition of gerrymander is any map the speaker doesn’t like,” [Douglas R. Johnson, a longtime expert in the mapping software] later said during cross examination.
And boy do Democrats not like these maps. Can’t field candidates or offer policies that win elections? Take it to court. Except, Democrats have been winning elections on these same maps. A bevy of Republican-held seats around Wake and Mecklenburg Counties flipped to Democrats in 2018, contributing to the breaking of Republicans’ super-majority. There, the Left was able to drive turnout levels that overcame the drag of bad candidates and worse policies.
Still, they whine in court, following through on their ‘Sue ’til Blue’ rallying cry. If this doesn’t work, all they’ll have left is accusing Republicans of mass murder.