The US Supreme Court on Friday refused to issue a stay in a lower court ruling that directed North Carolina lawmakers to redraw the state’s congressional districts due to racial gerrymandering.
The following is a statement from Jane Pinsky, director of the nonpartisan NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, in response to the Supreme Court allowing the lower court ruling to remain.
“For many years, Democrats drew congressional boundaries in North Carolina that produced chaotic court fights. Now, it’s Republican versions that cannot survive court reviews.
“We are saddened by this process, which puts raw politics over the people. We promise to redouble our efforts to bring about methods for deciding political boundaries that are fair, impartial and can restore confidence in our state’s elections.
“We ask lawmakers of both parties to join us in developing a bipartisan solution.”
With Washington< NC City Councilman William Pitt
Posted: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 11:30 pm | Updated: 11:43 pm, Wed Sep 2, 2015.
It’s been more than four years and two state elections since the latest North Carolina voting districts were created.
But they are still under a cloud of legal challenges that have already found their way to the U.S. Supreme Court once and probably will land there again.
The question is not whether the Republican majority in the General Assembly gerrymandered the districts to gain political advantage. Of course they did, and that’s legal and constitutional. What’s at issue here is whether legislative mapmakers went beyond politics and used race to design districts that also give them an advantage – which is neither legal nor constitutional.
The N.C. Supreme Court ruled last year that the redistricting was legal in all ways and that the new districts could stand. But the decision – in which former state Sen. Margaret Dickson of Fayetteville is the lead plaintiff – was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In April, that court tossed the case back to the N.C. Supreme Court, saying it must reconsider whether lawmakers relied too heavily on race.
The redistricting did create some bizarre-shaped districts, especially those created to insure success for African-American candidates. But it’s still uncertain if those districts were created by a legally unacceptable process.
The state Supreme Court held its second review of the case on Monday, and justices seemed perplexed by what they saw as sharply differing precedents in federal court decisions, seeking explanations from lawyers for both sides.
No matter how the state justices rule, another appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is seen as inevitable by both sides. The N.C. justices didn’t say Monday how quickly they would rule. We hope a decision will come before campaigning begins in earnest for 2016 state and federal elections.
We’d also like to see this as a final chapter in a saga that plays out almost like clockwork after every decade’s exercise in redistricting. It’s a frustrating, time-and-money-wasting ritual that undermines voters’ confidence in their electoral system. At various times in the past, both Democrats and Republicans have united around plans to create a nonpartisan legislative redistricting commission. Such a measure has bipartisan support in the N.C. House today, but not in the Senate.
It’s time to stop this endless cycle of protests, lawsuits, special legislative sessions and delayed elections. Let’s turn redistricting over to an impartial panel and make the voter, not political power, the most important principle.
UNDER THE DOME
JULY 17, 2015
Nonpartisan redistricting supporters resurrect dead Gov. Elbridge Gerry
Namesake of gerrymandering appears on Twitter
N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform is behind account
‘Redistricting reform’ bills have gone nowhere this session
Gov. Elbridge Gerry
Gov. Elbridge Gerry
BY COLIN CAMPBELL
Former Vice President and Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry has been dead for 200 years, but an advocacy group is bringing him back this month to lobby for nonpartisan redistricting.
The term gerrymandering is named for him because he redistricted the Massachusetts state Senate to benefit his political party in 1812. As of this month, Gerry has a Twitter account in which he lobbies to reclaim his legacy by ending the use of gerrymandering to draw district lines.
The account – and an accompanying opinion piece in Friday’s News & Observer – are authored by the N.C. Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, which is pushing for nonpartisan redistricting in North Carolina.
The group is encouraging supporters to tweet 271st birthday wishes to the dead governor.
State legislation to create a nonpartisan redistricting reform process have drawn dozens of co-sponsors from both parties, but neither the House or Senate has held a hearing on the bills this year.
And with the legislature now turning its focus to the state budget, the bills could be as dead as Gov. Gerry.
UNDER THE DOME
Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article27489067.html#storylink=cpy
After living most of my life in Florida–a state with enough retrogression problems of its own–I am still struck by the comparative powerlessness of the people of North Carolina. Down in Florida, as you surely have noticed, the people approved a pair of initiatives to forbid gerrymandering in Congressional and legislative redistricting. Wonder of wonders, the Florida Supreme Court put teeth into those amendments last week, tossing eight Congressional districts, and is likely to do the same with state Senate districts in subsequent litigation. The points are that the people had the power of initiative and used it to good effect, and the Supreme Court itself is insulated from politics by having a merit selection and retention system. (That isn’t going to last because of Jeb Bush’s changes to merit selection, but that’s another story.) Florida also has home rule, so the Legislature could never do what ours in NC just did.
The people of North Carolina need a reform crusade: initiative, recall, and home rule. The more dramatic we make it, the more likely it will help elect sympathetic legislators. The question: How do we get there?
The Fayetteville Observer on Thursday offers a clear call for redistricting reform in North Carolina after this week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s independent commission.
The editorial rightly notes the unfortunately truth that “lawsuits against redistricting are a North Carolina tradition” and “redistricting has always been done for political advantage, no matter which party was in charge.”
“That’s why 63 members of the N.C. House have endorsed an initiative to move redistricting out of the General Assembly and give it to a nonpartisan commission,” according to the Fayetteville Observer. “The supporters are bipartisan, joined by former Govs. Jim Hunt, a Democrat, and Jim Martin, a Republican. Rep. Paul Stam, the Republican House speaker pro tem, has led efforts for the commission in the House.”
We hope lawmakers will heed the call of the Fayetteville Observer editorial board, along with so many others in North Carolina supporting common-sense redistricting reform, and help us end gerrymandering in our state.
The full editorial can be read here.