As we get closer and closer to new district maps, I have a few thoughts on redistricting, some of which I expressed last week. In particular, there’s no way to take politics out of the process, but there are better ways than others to do it. In North Carolina, we’ve chosen the worst one.
Allowing politicians to draw their own districts is clearly a bad idea, especially in the hyper partisan environment in which we live. Any pretense of considering the public good is just bunk. This is a nakedly political process rooted in the quest for power. Republicans are going to press their advantage and draw districts that give them the most seats possible. The only debate is whether to try to keep them honest enough that they stand up to judicial scrutiny. The thoughts or desires of the voters have nothing to do with the process.
For Democrats, the process that they are about to suffer is a self-inflicted wound. Not only did they design the process, they failed to fix it before they lost power in 2010. They never thought they would lose both houses of the legislature.
In North Carolina, governors did not have the veto until 1996. Democrats in the legislature who opposed giving the governor that power won a concession that kept the governor out of redistricting process. Legislators could draw their own districts and those of Congress with no input from the executive branch. That’s how we got here today.
On the other hand, Republicans who complain that Democrats will take any maps to court had no problem when the GOP sued to overturn maps Democrats drew in the 1990s and early aughts. In fact, they won the state House and state Senate under maps drawn by a judge, not the ones drawn Democrats in the legislature. The courts will likely have a hand in drawing the districts at some point during the decade and that’s the result of poor choices of the legislature as much as Democrats’ desire for power.
Too many anti-gerrymandering activists claim that we can take politics out of the process. They are wrong. We can’t take politics out of redistricting any more than we can take money out of campaigns. The process is inherently political and politics will seep into it regardless of the system used. That said, it can certainly be better and have more regulations that it does now. Other states have better systems for determining districts and North Carolina should adopt one.
Right now, we pretend to have public input. Legislators pretend to care about what voters want. It’s all just a ruse. I prefer corrupt former Rep. David Lewis who told us exactly what was happening when he said that he only drew Congressional districts that favored Republicans 10-3 because he couldn’t figure out to draw a map that favored them 11-2. At least he was honest.
Finally, Republicans would be smart to implement a different process after they complete this year’s gerrymander. By the time of the next reapportionment, North Carolina will likely be significantly more Democratic. The younger voters who strongly favor Democrats will probably be voting in much larger numbers and a lot of the older, whiter voters that Republicans need will probably be dead. They should be wary of making the same mistake Democrats made in 2009.