NC gerrymandering

Court orders Special Master's maps be used for 2018 Legislative races

This is a different case than what the US Supreme Court just ruled on. Sorry for the confusion (if you were confused, that is), and I will add "Congressional" to the title of the earlier story.

Robin Hayes says NC's districts not gerrymandered because they don't look like monsters?

I think he might have fallen during a shuffleboard mishap:

According to the leader of the North Carolina GOP, detecting gerrymandering should be as easy as checking under your bed at night. If you see something that looks like a monster, you’re in trouble. Robin Hayes, chairman of the NC Republican Party, is among many Republicans upset that a panel of federal judges on Tuesday struck down North Carolina’s election districts for U.S. Congress as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders.

“A ‘gerrymander’ is by definition and common understanding, a strange looking ‘monster’ drawing. This map is clearly not that,” Hayes said. He noted that the maps kept 87 of North Carolina’s 100 counties whole and divided only 12 precincts.

Right, because Elbridge Gerry's map was made to look like a dragon by a clever 19th Century political cartoonist, that is now the standard we're supposed to use. The Monster standard. I think Hayes has gone around the bend, hopped on a unicorn, and rode hard for the border between eccentric and bat-shit crazy. But never fear, NCPOL folks are ever ready to jump on an opportunity for a few laughs:

Jerry Tillman admits judicial redistricting is partisan power grab

The word you're trying to recall is "Brazen."

One of the legislative proposals is a bill that changes the configuration of superior court, district court and prosecutorial districts across the state. At last week’s meeting, Asheboro attorney Jon Megerian said the changes were designed to get more Republican judges elected. In a weekend interview, Tillman did not argue with that notion.

“All redistricting, whether it be Republicans or Democrats, they are partisan activities,” he said. “The Constitution says the winning party will do that. It’s a partisan activity that goes to the winning party in the election."

“If it’s partisan, you’re going to draw them to your advantage if you can. It’s our job and our time and our responsibility to do exactly that.”

There is a deep logical fallacy in the "I've been given power by gerrymandering which gives me the right to gerrymander" position, but I can't pin the damn thing down. Something something in Latin, how's that?

2018 elections: The only thing certain is uncertainty

And the NC GOP has certainly screwed up the electoral landscape:

This week, Democrat Anita Earls announced she would run for the seat on the state Supreme Court held by Republican Justice Barbara Jackson. But will there be an election in 2018 at all?

There's a different question surrounding legislative elections in 2018: which incumbents will be forced to share districts? New proposed district lines are out, drawn by an independent mapmaker, but that's not the final word.

Even though the court has spoken (clearly), and even though Percily only redrew a handful of districts, Republicans are still trying to bully their way in to scribble on the damn maps. They need to be called out by the press for their efforts to undermine democracy and the voters who rely on it, and they need to be spanked a lot harder by the courts for constantly muddying the waters. The people need to reclaim their time.

Exploring the mind of the Special Master

Nathan Persily has been a staunch advocate for democracy for years:

Republicans don’t necessarily have a problem with Persily’s credentials, which are many, or his map-drawing chops, which are considerable. They worry about what GOP lawyer Phil Strach called “possible bias.” They’re right about that, but maybe not for the reason they think.

He has characterized gerrymandering as “partisan greed” – which happens to be true, regardless of which party is engaging in it. He has frowned at the Supreme Court’s campaign finance decision in Citizens United because of the power it gave to the few – Democrat or Republican – who have a lot of money. He has argued against a Texas effort to draw districts based on eligible voters instead of total population, because it would dilute the voting power of a growing Latino population.

In summary, Persily has been laser-focused on defending the rights and Constitutionally-granted powers of individual voters, matters the NC GOP has worked against relentlessly since they were granted a majority by those same voters. Why would you do that? Why would you punish those who had entrusted you? The logical answer is: Because you knew from the start you were going to exceed your mandate, take steps that are clearly in violation of (at least) the spirit of the NC Constitution and your previously stated principles, and you wanted to make sure those voters would not be able to correct their mistake. Here's more on Persily:

Court appoints Special Master to review gerrymandered Legislative maps

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And this isn't the Professor's first rodeo either:

Judge Catherine Eagles informed the attorneys in the order that Nathaniel Persily, who has helped draw districts for New York, Maryland, Georgia and Connecticut, would review North Carolina’s new legislative maps and possibly help the judges draw new lines for 2018. Persily will be paid $500 an hour, which the judges described as half his typical hourly rate. The filing period for state legislative races is set to begin in February.

“If any party has grounds to believe that Professor Persily has a conflict of interest which would disqualify him from serving as Special Master or is otherwise objectionable,” the judges said, the attorneys should file an objection within two business days. Any objectors may suggest a different mapmaker, the judges added.

This article corrects something I've been getting wrong for several weeks: Candidate filing for Legislative races is in February, not December, so we've got more breathing room on that. Also something to keep in mind: Persily's involvement in evaluating and potentially redrawing district lines may be limited to just a handful of races:

Gerrymandering update: Court explains why it didn't order Special Election

There is much truth in this:

The court initially ordered a remedial special election but on appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed its ruling and ordered that the panel make further considerations about the remedy. At the end of July, the panel denied the request for a special election and issued a timeline for lawmakers to redraw the gerrymandered maps. The 48-page unanimous opinion released Tuesday explains why the judges denied the plaintiffs request.

“Notwithstanding these weighty considerations favoring a special election, we nonetheless conclude such an election would not be in the interest of Plaintiffs and the people of North Carolina,” it states. “The compressed and overlapping schedule such an election would entail is likely to confuse voters, raise barriers to participation, and depress turnout, and therefore would not offer the vigorously contested election needed to return to the people of North Carolina their sovereignty.”

Late last year I knew we were in a race against time, and if the issue wasn't dealt with quickly enough by the courts, those same courts would be hard-pressed to require a Special Election. It's tempting to be angry about the delaying tactics used by the GOP to stretch this thing out, but that won't accomplish much. I don't want to step on any toes, but something else that won't accomplish much are creating our own maps to counter the Republican ones:

Carl Ford stakes claim to newly-created Senate District

Republicans are not waiting around to see what the courts decide:

If the new maps hold up in federal court, which found that existing maps include racial gerrymanders, Ford would not have to face an incumbent in the 2018 election or a special election, if the court orders one. There is no incumbent legislator in the newly drawn 33rd District. Sen. Cathy Dunn, a Republican from Davidson County, currently represents the 33rd District, but she was placed in a different district in the new maps, which were approved last week by the N.C. General Assembly.

“I am excited to see what the future will bring for Rowan and Stanly counties, and I look forward to being a part of that,” Ford said in his news release. “I take the opportunity to represent more people very serious and bathed this decision with lots of thought and prayer.”

Might not be politically astute for me to say it, but I don't care what the damn demographics are in this new District: Anybody who "bathes" a decision in prayer needs to be challenged for that seat. That's some serious Theocratical BS right there, more like something that would have come out of Cotton Mathers' mouth in 1692 than a lawmaker in the 21st Century. Sheesh.

Gerrymandering is the result of poor campaigning, not the cause

This may seem like a harsh assessment, but denying it won't help:

It comforts some Democrats to believe that gerrymandering and voter suppression are behind this debacle. That’s a rationalization, not an explanation: You can’t gerrymander Senate seats and governorships, and before Republicans could use such tactics, they had to win control of state legislatures in the first place. The GOP gains in these areas have come partly from a concerted effort, more than a dozen years old, to invest money and effort in winning these races. This is slow, unglamorous work, but it is paying off. By contrast, Democrats are more than eager to attend fundraisers for the next bright, shiny presidential contender or hot special-election candidate. Organizing to win back the North Carolina legislature? Not so much.

We've got roughly 13 months before the 2018 Election, in which *all* the General Assembly seats will be up for grabs, and all 13 US Congressional seats will be contested. The last time around, we set our sights on one narrow goal, to pick up a handful of seats in the NC House to undo the GOP's Veto-proof majority. That failed. Miserably. But now I'm hearing the same thing for 2018. And somehow, if we do that this time, this will give us the momentum to take back both houses in 2020. But the problem is, those 2020 district races will have the same partisan demographics that are in place for 2018. What's going to change in that two-year span to bring about this magical result? A couple of truisms: If it's impossible now, it will be impossible in 2020. By the same token, if it will be possible in 2020, then it is possible for 2018.

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