On Wednesday, Governor Roy Cooper called for a special session of the legislature to re-draw legislative districts that the Supreme Court found unconstitutional. In a twist, the session would run concurrently with the regular session now in progress. Republicans in the legislature immediately denied the governor’s request, calling it unconstitutional. Both sides immediately cried foul.
Republicans say that Cooper doesn’t have the constitutional authority to call the session. They say the court will determine, what, if anything, should be done. Democrats claim that the constitution demands that districts be drawn within 14 days of being found unconstitutional.
Republicans seemed smug with their quick rejection of Cooper’s demand for new districts. One conservative on twitter even suggested that the districts might not be drawn until the 2019 session of the General Assembly, leaving the current districts in place for 2018. That’s not going to happen since the court says that no more elections can be held under the current districts.
Politically, the move was smart for Cooper. He has nothing to lose. The chance of a special election happening this year is getting smaller every day that passes. Trying to force the GOP to draw districts now would remove one obstacle to an election this year.
More importantly, though, Cooper exposed the Republicans’ insistence on defending rigged districts. The public is increasingly unhappy with Republican rule in Washington and a recent poll shows that voters in North Carolina overwhelming prefer Democrats on a generic legislative ballot. Cooper’s making the GOP appear to defy the Supreme Court to protect an ill-gotten legislative advantage. They are the epitome of the political establishment putting the needs of politicians before the people they represent.
Democrats won in court again last week. Now, Cooper is winning the PR war. The more people are talking about rigged elections, the better for the minority party. We’ve been in a long cycle of throw-the-bums-out elections. That’s not likely to stop as long voters perceive the people in power as corrupt. By resisting fixing a problem of their own making, the Republican legislators are falling into the anti-establishment trap. They’re defending the indefensible.