After delaying passing a budget for 80+ days, NCGOP now turns focus to redrawing district maps in their favor

After delaying passing a budget for 80+ days, NCGOP now turns focus to redrawing district maps in their favor

After wasting more than 80 days to agree on a state budget, Republican leaders in North Carolina are now turning their focus to redistricting and trying to figure out the most effective way to gerrymander as many districts in their favor as possible.

Republican lawmakers will spend the next several weeks redrawing the state’s voting maps for Congress and their seats in the legislature. But before that begins, legislators want to hear from the public.

Unfortunately, as you read this, you have missed all of your opportunities to attend a public hearing and speak face-to-face with members of the state House and Senate redistricting committees.

Three public hearings were held earlier this week – Monday in Elizabeth City, Tuesday in Hickory and Wednesday in downtown Raleigh – and that’s it. Those were the only three chances North Carolinians had to look a lawmaker in the eyes and ask them about the process of drawing new maps. An online comment system remains open, though.

For those who were aware of the hearings, some traveled more than 125 miles to speak out against the rigged maps on Tuesday, the Hickory Daily Record reported.

Republicans are in full control of the redistricting process and have the freedom to draw maps in their favor to whatever degree they feel like following April’s decision by the North Carolina Supreme Court that partisan gerrymandering is perfectly legal under the state constitution. The decision was a complete reversal of the court’s previous decision late last year.

The Republican legislators in attendance got an earful throughout the two-hour hearing, according to the Hickory Daily Record. Speakers were given two minutes and nearly every speaker at the Hickory meeting condemned partisan gerrymandering. Many speakers called for a nonpartisan commission to draw maps and others said the state should keep its current congressional map that resulted in a 7-7 split of Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.

A major target of criticism at the hearing was the public input process itself, the Hickory Daily Record reported. Many of the speakers complained that there were only three meetings held throughout the state and said the hearings were scheduled for an inconvenient time. 

Speakers also complained about the lack of notice given before the hearings. Maybe the most shameful part is that Republicans don’t even have maps for people to review – or at least none that have been made public. Voters are supposed to comment on something they’ve never even seen, and once they do see it they won’t have a chance to address their representatives about it.

“These hearings are nothing more than shams,” Watauga County resident Ben Henderson said. “Holding these hearings with such little notice so that voters have no time to prepare, in only three locations in the state so that citizens must travel great distances to have their voices heard and at a time of day when most working people are unable to attend, is an affront to every citizen of this state.”

Multiple speakers asked that lawmakers hold more public hearings once they release the new maps. Sen. Daniel told attendees, “We’ll take the comments under consideration and just deliberate over this the next weeks and days and we’ll see what time we have to do that kind of thing.”

The chances of that happening appear extremely slim because the new maps need to be passed quickly, at least according to Republicans. 

“Certainly we need to have all the maps passed by the end of October so we do have a limited time frame,” said Daniel.

If we’re being completely honest, it’s a little foolish to think that any Republicans in attendance at these public meetings will change their minds, but just allowing voters to vent and say what they need to say right to their representative’s face should be a sacred tenet of democracy – but it’s not. Politicians, especially Republicans, generally do their best to hide from the public to avoid facing criticism and having to answer to their constituents. One does have to wonder, though: if Republicans didn’t delay passing a budget for almost three months, would that have left more time for lawmakers to hold public hearings on redistricting ahead of their October deadline?

Patrick Zarcone

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