Raleigh News & Observer: How North Carolina has outsourced redistricting

Raleigh News & Observer: How North Carolina has outsourced redistricting

Following the US Supreme Court ruling North Carolina’s legislative districts unconstitutional and a 3-judge panel telling the North Carolina General Assembly to redraw North Carolina’s legislative maps, the NC-GOP continues to drag their feet. They continue to fail to draw new maps, despite ample time, and it’s becoming more and more clear they have no desire to have fair maps in North Carolina. The only step forward that has been made is they’ve announced who will draw the new maps…and it is the same man who drew the unconstitutional racially gerrymandered maps in 2011. He is known for gerrymandering and undermining democracy. We must continue to stand up and fight back for fair maps now.

From News & Observer:

Hofeller is the maestro of gerrymandering, having worked in states around the country. He not only knows how to shape districts for maximum political effect, but he understands the nuances of the law and what will likely withstand court challenges

He also knows the pitfalls. He conducts all communications by telephone or in person, careful not to leave any e-mail trail that could come back to haunt him in court, according to Draper.

In North Carolina, the most startling example of his work was the redrawing of the congressional districts. After he drew new lines, North Carolina’s U.S. House delegation was transformed from a 7-6 Democratic majority to a 9-4 Republican majority in one election after the 2011 redistricting. (One election later it went to a 10-3 GOP majority, where it has stayed the rest of the decade.)

Two examples of the Hofeller magic will suffice.

He packed Democrats into several Democratic districts in order to make surrounding districts more Republican-leaning.

To push more Democrats into 4th District Democratic Rep. David Price’s district, centered in the Triangle, he connected it to Fayetteville’s African-American community. He connected it by a line that at one point, literally followed the Cape Fear River. Not only could Price not drive across the district that Hofeller drew for him, but he could not walk across it. But he could swim or canoe across it.

Another bit of Hofeller slight-of-hand occurred in the mountains where the Republicans wanted to get rid of Democratic U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, a former Redskins quarterback and a popular good ol’ boy. Hofeller moved Asheville – a hotbed of Democratic activism – out of the mountain district, and Shuler did not seek re-election. Asheville, although long regarded as the capital of Western North Carolina, is now represented by a Charlotte-area congressman.

Drawing such partisan lines has consequences. Replacing Shuler, a moderate Democrat who often worked with Republicans, was Republican Mark Meadows, a hard-line conservative who has been an obstructionist, making it difficult for the House Republican leadership to put together majorities.

During the last election, out of 170 state legislative districts, only 16 were competitive. (Competitive, in this case, means the winning margin was less than 10 points.) The Hofeller-designed legislative districts have given the GOP a veto-proof legislative majority that has resulted in one of the more dramatic rightward shifts in public policy of any state in the country.

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Eleanore Wood

Digital Director

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