The Transylvania Times -

Courts Right To Redistrict


November 6, 2017

“I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.

-Rep. David Lewis, Harnett County Republican

As Lewis’s above statement makes clear, ever since the Republicans took control of both chambers of North Carolina’s General Assembly in 2010, they have consistently worked to gerrymander both federal and state districts so that they can retain power.

But the General Assembly has lost gerrymandering cases in the federal courts and the outcome was no different this past Wednesday when a three-judge panel – two were appointed by President Obama and one was appointed by President George W. Bush – unanimously found that nine of the proposed districts “either fail to remedy the identified constitutional violation or are otherwise legally unacceptable.”

This ruling is no surprise. Republicans relied upon Tom Hofeller, who drew up the first set of unconstitutional boundaries, to also draw up the second set. When Hofeller drew the first boundaries he said it “presented the opportunity to solidify conservative policymakers at the state level and maintain a Republican stronghold in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade.”

The federal courts made it clear that if the state legislature violated the Constitution in its second attempt to redraw the boundaries then the court itself would draw the boundaries. As the court announced in its latest decision, “The state is not entitled to multiple opportunities to remedy its unconstitutional districts.”

The Republicans want as many chances as possible to redistrict so they can maintain their advantage or delay the impact until the 2020 election. But the court is tired of the state’s constant delays, stating “Constitutionally adequate districts must be in place in time for the 2018 election…”

The court has said that it would hire Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily to “assist the Court in further evaluating and, if necessary, redrawing the [districts in question] by developing an appropriate plan remedying the constitutional violations.” Persily is experienced and fair. Persily has helped redraw districts in New York, Maryland, Georgia and Connecticut. And in May he wrote the North Carolina case “may affect a few districts here and there, but it should not have widespread consequences for either partisan or racial gerrymanders.”

But the Republican leadership does not want any changes, no matter how minimal, because those changes could threaten their super-majority and they would then have to consider the positions of Gov. Roy Cooper. They want absolute control of the state and for the governor to be powerless. That is why they are upset that of the 28 original unconstitutional districts, there are still nine that are unconstitutional and that the court will redraw. (The fact that the court found 19 of the districts acceptable is a testament to the court’s fairness.)

As a result, Republican Sens. Lewis and Ralph Hise said in a joint statement it was wrong for the court to “potentially” allow a “lone professor in California with no accountability to North Carolinians” to help draw the districts and that such an order “is an outrageous and extraordinary violation of the principles of federalism and our state’s sovereignty.”

Such a statement is factually incorrect and hypocritical. When it comes to matters of voting rights, the federal government, not the state, is sovereign. One of the tenets of federalism is that if a state violates the U.S. Constitution, it is the right and duty of the federal government to intervene.

As for hypocrisy, Persily is fulfilling the same role as the Republican’s Hofeller. While the Republicans turned the redistricting over to Hofeller twice and produced unconstitutional districts, Persily has advised five courts and had his recommendations accepted four times.

It is important to recognize the impartiality and authority of the courts here. A bi-partisan court made a unanimous ruling. The court also gave the plaintiffs and defendants an opportunity to select someone to assist in redrawing these nine unconstitutional districts, but they could not agree on an individual, so the court had to make the decision. And the court, not Persily, will make the final decision.

Whenever a government entity violates the Constitution, it is the duty of the courts to intervene. In this case, the court has acted correctly.


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