North Carolina re-districting

So, because it seemed there was a clear racial bias in North Carolina’s current gerrymander, it’s been sent back for the legislature to give it another whack.  WRAL:

Republican lawmakers on Wednesday rolled out a proposed reconfiguration of North Carolina’s 13 U.S. House districts after federal judges ruled two of the current districts were unconstitutionally drawn based on voters’ race.1

The General Assembly is under a Friday deadline to reconfigure the maps after a three-judge panel on Feb. 5 invalidated the 1st Congressional District and the 12th Congressional District.

Although GOP leaders hold out hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will stay the judges’ order and allow the March 15 primary to proceed under the map that has been in place for five years, Gov. Pat McCrory called a special legislative session for Thursday morning to approve the new map.

I imagine the new districts may be marginally better, but I’m sure Republicans have a plan that preserves their 10-3 advantage in Congressional representation in a state that basically votes 50-50 for Congress.  Now that’s what you call a gerrymander.  Yes, Democrats do it, too (though, rarely this good), but that sure doesn’t make it right.

Great FB commentary from my friend and long-time reformer of election laws, Damon Circosta:

For those of you following the saga of our state lawmakers redrawing maps, I want to say something before the moment passes and our collective attention turns elsewhere. For years now, whenever the republican map drawers talked about what they did, they were sure to mention that it was “fair and legal”. It was bizarre how much fidelity they have to that phrase. Fair and legal. On repeat. In lockstep.

Tomorrow our legislature will go into emergency session and begin voting on hastily drawn new maps because a court said their “fair and legal” maps weren’t legal. Without getting into the nitty gritty of the voting rights act, let’s leave aside the legal aspect and let’s talk about fair. Is it fair to use the power to draw voting boundaries to stack the deck in your favor? Many of the folks who are doing it now didn’t think so when they were in the minority. Back then they were right there with me supporting legislation to do away with gerrymandering. Is it fair to claim at every turn that “the Democrats did it too”? Well sure, I suppose it is fair to call out past transgressions… But that’s only if you are working to improve matters, not justify your own wrongful behavior. My children learned that before they started kindergarten.[emphases mine] Is it fair to further erode our collective confidence in the political system so that you can be insulated from voter dismay over the laws you pass regarding our schools, our healthcare system and our environment?

These new maps that are getting drawn up this week in a slapdash fashion may or may not be legal. But fair they are not. No matter how many times you say it.

My only complaint?  It’s taken my kids well past kindergarten to learn this lesson :-).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

20 Responses to North Carolina re-districting

  1. Jon K says:

    Although I am no fan of gerrymandering, it is very important to remember that Democrats ran this state through good old boy networking and corruption from reconstruction until the recent GOP takeover. The Democrats complaining the loudest certainly didn’t feel the same way when the shoe was on the other foot. It is disingenuous to claim that this is about racism and fairness. It is about regaining political power. I am firmly convinced that if Democrats regained control they wouldn’t hesitate to gerrymandering just as much. Their defense would be “well the GOP did it too”. It comes down to them that has the gold (in this case majority) makes the rules.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Actually, the people I know complaining the loudest have always been against gerrymandering. And it’s worth noting, that with modern technology the current R gerrymander well surpasses anything Democrats ever accomplished.

      • Jon K says:

        I agree the Republicans used technology to their advantage. What is to prevent the Democrats from deploying similar technology when/if they regain control of the legislature? You honestly believe they wouldn’t act exactly the same way as the Republicans did? They did basically write the state constitution that lays out the process that the Republicans operated under.

      • Steve Greene says:

        I think there’s a non-trivial chance that redistricting reform would at least have a chance.

      • Jon K says:

        I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on that outcome ever being likely. Lord Acton’s axiom will prevent redistricting reform from ever seeing the light of day. There is too much incentive to the party in power to keep the power in the hands of the majority. I just don’t believe either side is interested in fairness. They are both interested in winning too much to care about fairness (except as a vehicle to complain and advance legal challenges).

      • Steve Greene says:

        Well, it actually has happened in other states.

      • Jon K says:

        Didn’t that come about largely as a result of voter initiated ballot initiatives? That is the only way I could see it happening in a state like North Carolina. It would have to be taken out of the hands of the legislature for it to have a chance.

  2. rgbact says:

    50-50?? Democrats as usual want to believe midterm elections don’t actually count. No Republican won by less than 14% in 2014. Good luck un-gerrymandering that. It’ll cost a current black Democrat their job.

    At this point, less gerrymandering would help. Too many GOP moderates currently

    • Jon K says:

      Statewide it is 50-50. Gerrymandering is the reason the margins were so high. The districts were drawn to benefit Republicans. That isn’t really arguable.

      • Jon K says:

        The gerrymandering has turned the state legislature so far right (and anti-education, and way too social conservative) that I’m not going to vote for Republican state legislators. I’ll probably vote for the governor, but our legislature is a disaster.

      • rgbact says:

        Again, where are you getting this 50-50 from? The state has a GOP governor, a GOP legislature, 2 GOP senators, and majority GOP House. And its 50-50? Right, and Texas is going blue.

        Gerrymandering should result in LOWER winning margins, not higher.

  3. R. Jenrette says:

    Govt. 101 – In most states including NC, the following jobs are elected state wide: President, Vice-President,Senators, Governor, Cabinet. All the rest are elected by district. Gerrymandered districts produce wider margins of victory.

    • Jon K says:

      How would drawing districts to benefit Republicans result in lower margins?

      Statewide elections are competitive. Obama won NC remember?

      • R. Jenrette says:

        1. Larger margins for Republicans in Republican gerrymandered districts.
        2. Yes, statewide elections are more competitive, Those are not the issue with gerrymandering. It’s the Congressional, state Senate and State House districts that are the issue.

      • Jon K says:

        I know that. I didn’t understand RGBact’s point.

      • rgbact says:

        Lower margins for Repubs, Larger ones for Dems.

        Take same number of GOP voters….and cobble them into trying to win more districts…..means you will win each district by smaller margins. But again, GOP margins were still big in 2014 anyway.

        Democrats use Obama winning in 2008 as some kind of example of something. Its 2016 now NC is a red state.

      • Jon K. says:

        You obviously don’t understand this at all. This state isn’t majority Republican. If the population is measured state wide it is pretty close to 50 50. The districts have been drawn on purpose to maximize Republican influence and minimize Democrats. The Republican legislators have admitted this in court. It isn’t really a secret.

      • Jon K. says:

        Either that or you are being stupid on purpose. In which case it isn’t funny.

      • rgbact says:

        You’re living in liberal fantasyland I see. Its time to stop believing democrats lose elections because of vast right wing conspiracies or the Koch Brothers or a cabal of gerrymanderers. NC is a slightly red state. If Democrats lose, its for that reason, not some other nefarious one.,

        I’m not saying that there isn’t some gerrymandering. But the state is still red. And given GOP margins in 2014, ungerrymandering a couple seats won’t be so easy for Democrats.

      • Jon K says:

        I don’t believe that, but I do believe what those who drew the maps say about them. I also believe the polling data that shows NC is a purple state. They are proud of what they did, believe it legal, and freely admit it. I don’t think I am the one believing a fantasy.

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