For the third decade in a row, North Carolina’s election process is being interrupted because a court found redistricting unconstitutional. Republicans blame the court for the disruption but they have nobody to blame but themselves. They drew the dubious districts and they moved the primary season knowing that a ruling might come down.
Republicans ran as reformers in 2010 when they took control of the legislature and again in 2012 when Pat McCrory became governor. Instead of reforming elections, they just tried to rig the system for themselves. They had good teachers, though. Democrats gerrymandered districts for decades. With the use of new technology, Republicans perfected the process, drawing districts that assured their victories by splitting counties, precincts and communities.
For years, Republicans like Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger supported an independent redistricting committee that would end gerrymandering. Once they got power, though, they changed their tune. Holding onto that power became far more important. So, they became hypocrites.
This morning nobody knows what’s going to happen. The legislature will ask for a stay that would allow the elections to proceed. If it’s granted, we’ll likely have these districts until 2018. If it’s not, then our election is in turmoil. The March primary, at least for Congressional races, will almost certainly need to be moved. Some folks say the ruling may have an impact on a similar court case concerning state legislative districts. If that’s true, then the legislative primaries would need to be moved also.
Republicans could fix the situation. They could draw new, fairer districts and move the primary to the first Tuesday in May. We’re still in the time frame of a normally scheduled election cycle. Filing would last until the end of February and the primary would happen in May, just like always. They could leave the presidential primary in place if they wanted North Carolina to play a greater role in determining the nominee, but the race may well be going strong in May anyway.
It’s time for the legislature to pass redistricting reform. Voters have lost faith in the system because they believe politicians are self-serving and will say anything to win elections. Berger and company can garner good will by sticking to their original positions and pass the redistricting legislation they once claimed to support. It’s really time to quit subjecting North Carolinians to expensive lawsuits that leave our elections in a perpetual state of uncertainty.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >