Federal Court Has Had ENOUGH Of North Carolina Republicans' Shit
A federal court ruled Monday that North Carolina has to knock it the fuck off with drawing congressional districts to ensure lopsided Republican representation in Congress, and may require new electoral maps be drawn before this year's midterm elections. Yes, the ones that are two months away.
The three-judge panel for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina said in a 321-page opinion that Republican legislators responsible for the map conducted unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering to dilute the impact of Democratic votes.
"That is precisely what the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly sought to do here," the opinion said.
North Carolina, of course, has long been one of the most aggressively radical states when it comes to engineering structural advantages for Republicans -- not just through gerrymandering, but also through some of the most gleefully corrupt voter suppression in the country. Not long ago, their shenanigans were condemned by the Electoral Integrity Project as being on a par, democracy-wise, with "Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone."
The case has already been to the Supreme Court once, in June, but with no decision on the constitutional issue of whether the partisan gerrymander was legal. Instead, the Supremes sent it back to the lower court to decide whether the plaintiffs had standing. Yup, the three judges decided, and what's more, the panel decided the partisan gerrymander was unconstitutional to boot. Here's Judge James A. Wynn Jr., writing for the panel (full set of opinions is here):
As to the merits, a common thread runs through the restrictions on state election regulations imposed by Article I, the First Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause: the Constitution does not allow elected officials to enact laws that distort the marketplace of political ideas so as to intentionally favor certain political beliefs, parties, or candidates and disfavor others [...]
And by favoring the viewpoints of one group of voters over another, it runs afoul of the Government's constitutional duty to "treat its voters as standing in the same position, regardless of their political beliefs or party affiliation."
But it's a really great map if you're Republican, as Reuters notes:
Republicans in 2016 won 10 of the 13 House districts - 77 percent of them - despite getting just 53 percent of the statewide vote, nearly the same result as in 2014.
This is actually the second time North Carolina's gerrymandering has drawn a lawsuit: In 2016, the Supreme Court threw out virtually the same map as racially biased, giving whites disproportionate electoral power. The state legislature passed it again with very few changes, explaining this time race wasn't a factor at all. Instead, the lege said, it was based on political party, making it perfectly cromulent. Well hell naw, said Judge Wynn:
The General Assembly expressly directed the legislators and consultant responsible for drawing the 2016 Plan to rely on "political data"—that is, past election results specifying whether, and to what extent, particular voting precincts had favored Republican or Democratic candidates, and therefore were likely to do so in the future—to draw a districting plan that would ensure Republican candidates would prevail in the vast majority of the State's congressional districts, and would continue to do so in future elections.
That just isn't legal since it took away Dems' "natural political strength," which isn't allowed. Wynn also cited state Rep. David Lewis, one of the geniuses who drew the current map. Back in 2016, Lewis explained why minimizing Democratic power was best for the people of North Carolina and indeed the USA:
I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats [...] So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.
After all, if you let Democrats have a proportional amount of representation, they'd only cheat and do stuff that's bad for America. To protect all Americans, the minority of Trump-kissing Republicans must rule, or our Constitutional Republic is doomed. See? That's why they say it's a Republic, not a democracy. Majorities might vote for a legislature that fails to preserve a Republican majority.
The court gave the parties in the case until Thursday to propose solutions to the unconstitutional districts. Judge Wynn didn't seem too hot on letting the North Carolina General Assembly take another crack at it, either:
We continue to lament that North Carolina voters now have been deprived of a constitutional congressional districting plan — and, therefore, constitutional representation in Congress — for six years and three election cycles.
Wynn added that if the state tried again, it would probably "delay electing representatives under a constitutional districting plan," a likelihood that "weighs heavily against" handing it back to those tools. It's possible the court might appoint a special master to get districts in place before the general election, and any such action is likely to be immediately appealed to the Supreme Court.
As election lawblogger and U of California Irvine prof Richard Hasen points out, that gets interesting too, given Anthony Kennedy's retirement: An emergency appeal might result in a 4-4 tie, leaving the lower court decision in place. If that happens, North Carolina might get fair elections exactly once, "for 2018 only, and that could help Democrats retake control of the U.S. House." But once the Senate confirms Brett Kavanaugh, says Hasen, it's unlikely any Republican majority on the Supremes would have a problem with partisan gerrymandering, because they're assholes, so then it would would be back to Hell for all of us.
If it helps any, Hasen says Kennedy would have been fine with partisan gerrymandering, too, regardless of whether those rigging the system for their party say "we are rigging the system for our party" out loud.
Doesn't seem a stretch to guess Merrick Garland would have had some problems with it. Thanks a fuckton for the democracy, Mitch McConnell.
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[Reuters / WaPo / Election Law Blog]
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.