North Carolina lost its redistricting case—again. It happens several times a decade and doesn’t matter whether it’s Republicans or Democrats drawing the lines. According to Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan, the 12th Congressional District made its fifth appearance before the court.
The gerrymandering following the 2010 census was more egregious, in part, because the technology gave the mapmakers sophisticated tools to pick and choose voters. In North Carolina, it was also more extreme because Republicans were drawing the maps for first time in well over a century. They wanted to make sure they could maintain control for the foreseeable future and claim Democrats did the same to them.
Republicans claim that when they draw gerrymanders, the court calls them racist. When Democrats draw them, they’re combatting racism and complying with the Voting Rights Act. But that’s not what the court or the VRA is doing.
The Voting Rights Act is meant to ensure that African-Americans aren’t denied political power and representation because of their race. The balance is certainly delicate and the courts have never offered clear instructions for mapmakers. That said, the GOP in North Carolina deliberately drew maps designed to put as many African-Americans into as few districts as possible at both the Congressional and legislative level. Their goal was to limit the number of Democrats who could be elected and they succeeded, gaining veto proof majorities in the state House and Senate and garnering a 10-3 advantage in a state that is roughly evenly divided.
Republicans effectively kept African-Americans from influencing almost any election outside of the majority-minority districts and made sure that they were in the minority party in the legislature. Clearly, they rigged the system to reduce African-American power and influence. Combined with voter suppression laws designed to restrict access to the polls for African-American voters, the GOP has a very difficult time making the case that they’re not a discriminatory party.
If the GOP really wants to shed its image of racial intolerance, they should embrace a non-partisan redistricting commission. Nobody could blame them for districts that put African-Americans into too few districts or scattered them so thinly that they couldn’t win. In addition, they could save the state millions of dollars from lawsuits that will inevitably occur if they keep drawing lines.
It’s time to end twenty years of gerrymandering battles that keep the wounds of the Jim Crow South open. It’s time to return to competitive districts that reduce extremism and promote moderation. It’s time to put the good of voters before desires of politicians.
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 >