The Republican legislature has been rebuffed in its attempt to draw legislative districts for the third time. The federal judicial panel instead stuck by their decision to appoint a special master to redraw districts that the court says are unconstitutional. Last month, Republicans submitted districts that might not meet the court’s approval so the court wants to be prepared. The three-judge panel wants to make sure they have districts in place when they make a decision early next year on the GOP’s current configuration.
Republicans complain that the court is not giving them an opportunity to correct their errors, as if they made an innocent mistake. In fact, they deliberately tried to disenfranchise as many people as possible. Their goal in redistricting was to create as few competitive districts as possible and as many safe GOP ones as they could muster. As Rep. David Lewis said when asked why he drew Congressional maps that produced a 10-3 Republican majority despite the evenly divided state, “I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.” Clearly, Republicans care more about their power than the will of the people.
When Republicans were ordered to redraw maps last summer, they could have taken it upon themselves to draw districts that remedied the problem. Instead, they brought in the same hired gun who drew the unconstitutional maps to draw new ones. They paid professional gerryrigger Thomas Hofeller with taxpayer money to try to secure their veto proof majorities again. If they were given a third try, they would almost certainly bring in Hofeller again. His job is not to fix fair districts, but to rig the system in spite of the court’s decision.
Republicans like to claim Democrats did the same thing when they were in control, but that’s not quite right. Democrats didn’t hire professional gerryriggers to draw the maps and their districts were never as rigged as those of the GOP. We always had at least a couple of highly competitive Congressional districts and a lot of competitive legislative districts. That’s not true today.
And while Republicans can whine the Democrats did it first, they should also acknowledge that they sued for fairer districts for two consecutive decades. The difference is that Democrats grudgingly accepted the court decisions without trying to further rig the system. Republicans are disparaging the federal courts and trying to rig the state ones.
We’ll get to see what happens when a neutral mapmaker draws districts. I suspect the legislative districts will still tilt heavily Republican, but won’t be as skewed as what Hofeller would draw. We’ll probably have far more voters who will actually have a choice in their legislative elections. That’s good for democracy, good for government and good for North Carolina.
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 >