Republicans seem to want to antagonize the court that ruled the legislative districts drawn in 2011 are unconstitutional. Yesterday, they approved criteria to draw new districts that will almost certainly miff the judges. Republicans said that they would not consider race in drawing the maps despite needing to satisfy the Voting Rights Act that demands race be considered. They also insist on protecting incumbency even though many incumbents were elected in unconstitutional districts.
The court ordered the General Assembly to have new maps by September 1. Once they’re drawn and approved by the legislature, the court will then need to approve them. If the maps don’t pass constitutional muster, the court will appoint somebody to draw them again.
So far, GOP strategy has been to delay as long as possible to protect their veto proof majority. Maybe drawing maps under criteria that might not pass muster is part of that strategy. Either they get maps that will heavily favor Republicans again or they can draw out the suit over the next election cycle, keeping the current districts intact. Seems that’s a bad bet, but who knows?
What’s clear is that Republicans understand that they can’t hold the power they have today without rigging the system. Gerrymandering is a big part of their game plan. Reducing access to the polls is another tactic. Protecting gains by weakening the power of the Elections Board is still another. Lopsided districts, though, are the key to their veto proof majority.
Regardless, the new districts will almost certainly be more competitive than the current ones. In a mid-year election, Democrats could make big gains, especially if the courts draw them.
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 >