North Carolina Judges Piss On GOP's Election Maps Like They're On Fire!
The North Carolina GOP really loves them some gerrymandering. Whether it's racial gerrymandering or partisan gerrymandering, they will pretty much do whatever it takes to keep themselves in power, the will of the people be damned. But yesterday's decision in Common Cause v. Lewis thew out their bullshit maps and ordered that the maps be redrawn but fucking now.
Why? Because democracy.
Extreme partisan gerrymandering does not fairly and truthfully ascertain the will of the people. Voters are not freely choosing their representatives. Rather, representatives are choosing their voters. It is not the will of the people that is fairly ascertained through extreme partisan gerrymandering. Rather, it is the will of the map drawers that prevails.
In a massive 357-page decision, a three-judge panel ruled that the GOP has really got to stop ratfucking the people of North Carolina and draw new legislative maps for the 2020 election. A new map is now due in two weeks. And the judges were beautifully, righteously pissed.
The judges were very unamused with Republicans' proffered explanations for why their maps should be allowed. The court noted that Republicans had drawn the 2017 legislative map "with surgical precision to carefully craft maps that grouped many voters into districts predominantly based upon partisan criteria by packing and cracking Democratic voters to dilute their collective voting strength, thereby creating partisan gerrymandered legislative maps[.]" They found that "partisan intent predominated over all other redistricting criteria resulting in extreme partisan gerrymandered legislative maps," and "in all but the most unusual election scenarios, the Republican party will control a majority of both chambers of the General Assembly." It went on:
[T]he 2017 Enacted House and Senate Maps are significantly tainted in that they unconstitutionally deprive every citizen of the right to elections for members of the General Assembly conducted freely and honestly to ascertain, fairly and truthfully, the will of the People. The Court bases this on the inescapable conclusion that the 2017 Enacted Maps, as drawn, do not permit voters to freely choose their representative, but rather representatives are choosing voters based upon sophisticated partisan sorting. It is not the free will of the People that is fairly ascertained through extreme partisan gerrymandering. Rather, it is the carefully crafted will of the map drawer that predominates. This Court further concludes that the 2017 Enacted Maps are tainted by an unconstitutional deprivation of all citizens' rights to equal protection of law, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.
Go home, NC GOP, you're drunk
This opinion throws some excellent -- and well-deserved -- shade at the Republicans for trying to subvert the democratic process. Even the Table of Contents dunks on their fuckery.
Your arguments are bullshit, Bob.
The decision also explains in detail why gerrymandering is so bad for voters.
The danger of partisan gerrymandering is that it has the potential to violate the core principle of republican government that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.
Partisan gerrymandering operates through vote dilution—the devaluation of one citizen's vote as compared to others. A mapmaker draws district lines to "pack" and "crack" voters likely to support the disfavored party. The mapmaker packs supermajorities of those voters into a relatively few districts, in numbers far greater than needed for their preferred candidates to prevail. Then the mapmaker cracks the rest across many more districts, spreading them so thin that their candidates will not be able to win. Whether the person is packed or cracked, his vote carries less weight—has less consequence—than it would under a neutrally drawn (non-partisan) map. In short, the mapmaker has made some votes count for less, because they are likely to go for the other party.
[I]t is clear to the Court that extreme partisan gerrymandering—namely redistricting plans that entrench politicians in power, that evince a fundamental distrust of voters by serving the self-interest of political parties over the public good, and that dilute and devalue votes of some citizens compared to others—is contrary to the fundamental right of North Carolina citizens to have elections conducted freely and honestly to ascertain, fairly and truthfully, the will of the people.
North Carolina Republicans obviously disagree.
If you're getting a sense of déjâ-vu right now, there's a reason for that. North Carolina Republicans have tried all of these things before. In 2017, North Carolina's congressional districts were thrown out because of racial gerrymandering. And last summer, North Carolina's absurdly gerrymandered congressional districts went up to the US Supreme Court, resulting in an opinion from the judicial branch of the GOP that gerrymandering is really no big deal and is just something federal courts should stay out of altogether.
The court noted what a long, drawn-out process trying to get decent maps in the state has been.
The voters of this state, since 2011, have been subjected to a dizzying succession of litigation over North Carolina's legislative and Congressional districts in state and federal courts. Today marks the third time this trial court has entered judgment. Two times, the North Carolina Supreme Court has spoken. Eight times, the United States Supreme Court has ruled. Yet, as we near the end of the decade, and with another decennial census and round of redistricting legislation ahead, the litigation rages on with little clarity or consensus. The conclusions of this Court today reflect the unanimous and best efforts of the undersigned trial judges—each hailing from different geographic regions and each with differing ideological and political outlooks—to apply core constitutional principles to this complex and divisive topic. We are aided by advances in data analytics that illuminate the evidence; we are aided by learned experts who inform our analysis; and, we are aided by skilled lawyers who have masterfully advanced the positions of their clients. But, at the end, we are guided, and must be guided, by what we conclude the North Carolina Constitution requires.
As for why is this case allowed, after the Supreme Court gave a big shrug to representative democracy just a few months ago, it's actually a matter of something Republicans normally love: federalism. This is a state case about the North Carolina state constitution, and SCOTUS doesn't get to tell states what their constitutions do.
Remember Thomas Hofeller? He was the guy who came up with the idea of putting a citizenship question on the 2020 census to, in his own words, "benefit Republicans and non-Hispanic whites." Well, that's far from the only terrible thing he did. He was known by Republicans generally and NC Republicans specifically as The Guy to help them draw maps that entrenched their political power. So that's what he did. But thanks to yesterday's decision, Hofeller's shitty maps are no more!
In a surprise move, Republicans announced after the decision that they would not be appealing the decision, and would instead start redrawing North Carolina's legislative maps.
Republicans don't really believe in the rule of law, and love to appeal good decisions that affirm things like representative democracy, so this is strange and more than a little confusing -- and you just know it's not because they give a flying fuck about fairness.
I see two potential reasons for the GOP to just drop this case. Number one is that the North Carolina Supreme Court is currently majority Democrat, and probably would have upheld the lower court's incredibly well-reasoned decision. By not appealing the decision, they avoided creating binding statewide precedent in future cases.
As for number two, they may be trying to take a move from Trump, where you do something dumb and shitty, courts strike it down, and then you use the courts' decisions as a guide on how to get away with similar shitty things in the future. That's what Trump did with the Muslim Ban, and what he indicated he wanted to do in the Census citizenship question litigation, before giving up. In this case, Republicans couldn't -- and didn't -- dispute the fact that this map was drawn for partisan political reasons. They may think that now they'll be able to still accomplish their partisan gerrymandering goal, but while being less blatant about the reasons why.
Either way, this decision is incredibly important and could help truly enfranchise a huge number of North Carolinians in future elections. Nice times!
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