News & Observer: Republicans have made a game out of redistricting
Republicans in the General Assembly have spent the past few months dragging their feet to draw new fair legislative maps. Their racially gerrymandered maps were unanimously ruled unconstitutional months ago, and they have yet to redraw the maps. After a 3-judge panel told them they have until September 1 to redraw the maps, there has finally been a bit of movement on their end. Tom Hofeller, who drew the racially gerrymandered maps, is the same man drawing the new maps and it’s important we continue to demand fair maps now.
The Republicans, who have Democrats on their committees pertaining to redistricting but ignore them, have passed rules clearly aimed to benefit them in terms of guidelines for drawing the new maps.
For example, the rules just passed allow them to consider past election results when drawing the new districts. That would seem to say, well, if Representative So-and-So won, then he must be the chosen representative of the people so we need to figure a map that will help him. There’s a recipe for trouble.
And, another rule will allow the new maps drawn in a way that can protect incumbents.
House Minority Leader Rep. Darren Jackson of Wake County nailed that one: “We will protect the incumbents elected using unconstitutional maps.” Bam. Pow. Zing.
And then there’s the rule that will not allow race to be considered in drawing districts. Ah, that seems fair on the surface, but such a guideline could be used to disenfranchise minority voters by ignoring them. Rep. Mickey Michaux, a veteran lawmaker from Durham and an African-American, said, “You’re still short-changing a group of people by not including them.”
It really isn’t that much of a stretch to wonder if Republicans are setting themselves up for failure. If they draw new maps — chances are the maps already exist, since they have to be done in a couple of weeks — that also are blatantly skewed to help Republicans, as the current maps are, will the courts reject those maps? And if they did, would Republicans gamble that the old maps would at least have to be used in the next election?
It’s probably not a safe bet. A judge could decide to draw the maps without the assistance of the GOP’s chosen mapmaker.
This seemingly endless legal battle is unfair mainly to the people of North Carolina, who deserve to choose their legislators based on maps that make geographic and political sense, with tightly-drawn districts wherein residents have common concerns and where a representative or senator will be familiar with the territory he or she represents.