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.
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 >