Morning Headlines: Wednesday, September 16, 2015 WFDD Radio
By NEAL CHARNOFF
Candidates Meet Voters In Greensboro
The League of Women Voters is helping Greensboro residents prepare for the city’s October municipal primaries.
The nonpartisan organization invited the city’s three mayoral candidates and six at-large council candidates to participate in a community forum on Tuesday.
With so many candidates on stage, each had only a short time to speak, but all had a chance to respond to a variety of questions from the moderator and the audience.
Topics ranged from lofty items like fighting food insecurity and creating affordable housing, to day-to-day challenges like solid waste management. They even had a chance to weigh in on the embattled International Civil Rights Museum, which brought some passionate responses from the more than 100 people listening.
While candidates disagreed on how to approach certain issues, they often found common ground, and even applauded previous council decisions on things like supporting Greensboro’s international community.
And everyone agreed on the final question. When asked if they’d support nonpartisan redistricting in North Carolina, every candidate said “yes.”Read More
With Washington< NC City Councilman William PittRead More
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.Read More
By Gary D. RobertsonThe Associated PressSunday, August 30, 20150 Comments | Leave a Comment
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s boundaries for General Assembly and congressional seats were drawn four years ago by Republican legislators and have been used in the past two election cycles, helping bolster GOP electoral gains.
Yet the initial litigation that called the role race played in forming the districts discriminatory and illegal remains unresolved.
Combined lawsuits filed by election and civil rights groups and Democratic voters are back at the state Supreme Court. Justices will hear arguments Monday whether they should change their majority ruling from eight months ago that upheld the maps now that there’s a new U.S. Supreme Court decision.
The nation’s highest court told North Carolina state judges in April to reconsider the case through the lens of its March decision. The U.S. justices found Alabama legislators relied too much on “mechanical” numerical percentages while drawing legislative districts in which blacks comprised a majority of the population.
Those who sued over North Carolina’s maps in 2011 believe the ruling in the Alabama matter is spot on with the boundaries drawn by the General Assembly. They argued in court briefs that it confirms two dozen legislative districts, along with the majority-black 1st and 12th Congressional Districts, should be struck down and maps redrawn quickly by the legislature for the 2016 elections.
State attorneys and legislative leaders contend the Alabama case is altogether different, and the current maps should remain intact.
“They’re fair and legal,” said Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, the Senate’s chief mapmaker in 2011. “We don’t suspect there will be any changes because the decision of the Alabama case is like apples and (oranges) to the case that we presented.”
Lawyers challenging the maps argue North Carolina GOP leaders, as in Alabama, went beyond what the U.S. Voting Rights Act and case law demand by shoehorning black voters into irregularly-shaped districts and eroding their ability to elect their preferred candidates.
North Carolina lawmakers created even more majority-minority districts compared to the maps drawn last decade mostly by Democrats, and increased the percentage of black voters in previously majority-black state House districts.
Although there’s now a record number of black legislators, those lawmakers and the black voters they represent have less influence than before because they are crammed in districts as adjoining districts became more Republican, said Anita Earls, an attorney representing the state NAACP, a plaintiff.
Black legislators “would say that they have less power than they’ve ever had,” Earls said. “They have no ability to get their policies or positions passed.”
Earls and her allies point to previous districts where black lawmakers have won in districts that are less than 50 percent black by swaying white voters, too. But the state’s attorneys counter that no black candidate was elected to the General Assembly in 2010 from a majority-white district.
Rucho said mapmakers followed redistricting principles set out by the state Supreme Court more than 10 years ago. They’ve argued the law and court rulings make clear creating majority-minority districts are justified to protect the state from discrimination litigation.
Rucho said Alabama legislators went far and beyond the Voting Rights Act by creating districts with black populations of 60 and 70 percent, Rucho said. None of North Carolina’s majority-black districts exceeded 57 percent.
Those who sued said race was the predominant factor in drawing the districts, making them racial gerrymanders that can’t be justified. But legislators said the maps were chiefly designed to retain Republican majorities in the General Assembly.
A Virginia congressional district also has been reviewed in light of the Alabama matter. A panel of federal judges ruled again that Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District was unlawful.
The prevailing decision by North Carolina’s justices is likely to be appealed back to the U.S. Supreme Court. There are also two other pending North Carolina redistricting cases in federal court.
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