Checks and imbalances

by | Feb 9, 2018 | Editor's Blog, Politics, Voting Rights | 3 comments

North Carolina Representative David Lewis called a news conference to have a temper tantrum this week. He blasted Democrats for suing “until North Carolina is blue, despite what the people, despite what the voters, want.” The Republicans then promptly sued to try to protect their ill-won majorities in the legislature.

Lewis, though, is the originator of so many of these problems and his take on the voters is just wrong. Voters don’t really speak with single voice because, well, they’re voters–plural. But if we use vote totals to determine what North Carolinians want, it’s divided government, not one party rule. They elected Democrat Roy Cooper over Republican Pat McCrory despite voting for Republicans Donald Trump and Richard Burr. They seem to want a relatively evenly divided legislature and Congressional delegation since their votes were far closer to 50-50 than the lopsided majorities Republicans hold.

When Lewis helped draw the Congressional districts in a 10-3 Republican split, he famously said “we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.” That’s also the logic that leaves Republicans with veto proof majorities in both houses of the legislature against the will of the voters he claims to interpret.

Lewis openly admits that he and his colleagues are trying to rig the elections to favor the GOP. Hell, they’ve professionalized gerrymandering.  They hired a guy from Washington whose sole purpose is to draw maps that disproportionally favor Republicans regardless of the political will of the voters.

But gerrymandering was not enough. The GOP started a national movement to restrict access to the ballot through voter suppression laws. Even Republicans admitted they were schemes to keep Democrats out of the voting booth. Republican consultant Carter Wrenn told the Washington Post that “the GOP’s voter fraud argument is nothing more than an excuse.” Republicans across the country have called voter ID laws “part of the Republican toolkit.”

When Roy Cooper took office, the GOP attempted to undermine his control of the state board of elections. They restructured the state and county boards of elections to give Republicans more influence over election rules like early voting. They’re using their electoral power to cement their power, not follow the will of the people.

Lewis and his colleagues have left Democrats no choice but to turn to the courts. As Lewis openly admits, they’ve drawn districts that prevent Democrats from opposing them in elected bodies, effectively ending one of the checks on their power. They’ve then used that unchecked power to pass laws that disenfranchise voters who favor Democrats and give themselves more control over the electoral process. They’re trying to rig more than just elections. They’re trying to rig the electorate

If they don’t like going to court, they should respect the constitution and the rights of voters a little more. Federalism has its limits and the state’s ability to disenfranchise people is one of them. We in the South should know that better than anybody.


  1. Walt de Vries, Ph.D.

    Ah, but Thomas, the North Carolina Republicans are in a win-win situation. Their legislators propose and then enact gerrymandered districts knowing full well that they may be declared unconstitutional. Of course, that happens, and then they hire their GOP lawyer buddies to fight court battles that they expect to lose, but what the hey. All done with the taxpayer’s money, don’t you know.
    What happened to the idea that political parties in a democracy’s fundamental purpose is to educate voters and then get them to participate in their governments? Quaint, yes, but absolutely necessary in a representative form of government.
    Perhaps the NC Republican party apparatus should be required to pay for each lawsuit that they lose because they had gerrymandered the districts? Include the NC Democratic party as well, because they too have done their share of gerrymandering, but not with the precision and skill that the GOP has used to take away the voters right to choose.
    We need an independent commission to reapportion this state. Elected politicians cannot be expected nor trusted to do this. It is that simple.

  2. Jay Ligon

    Republicans respecting the Constitution? Encouraging free and fair elections? Doing the right thing? What have you been smoking?

    • Norma Munn

      Wish I had seen your replay earlier in the day. Best laugh of the day! Thanks. (May I add that I think they should also be described as slow learners.)

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