• December 15, 2019
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These are the current State House and Senate maps. The districts found unconstitutional span from Wilmington to Asheville. Now the Legislature must go through a redistricting battle. (Photo from the North Carolina General Assembly.)  

On September 4, a three judge panel in Wake County ruled that 56 of the State House districts and 21 of the State Senate districts were unconstitutionally drawn. The districts include SD-15, SD-16, and SD-18, these are the senate districts that many Leesville students live in.

This ruling means that the North Carolina General Assembly had two weeks to redraw the 77 districts. The new maps have been approved by both the House and Senate. They now go back to the courts to get their approval. 

After the Republicans gained the majority in the State Legislature in 2010, they redrew the maps after the census. The maps gave them a supermajority until 2018, even though Mitt Romney only won the state by two percent in 2012, and President Trump only won the state by three percent. Democrats broke through the supermajority in the 2018 elections after a handful of districts were struck down in the courts for racial gerrymandering. They even won the majority of the vote throughout the state but still remained in the minority. This is the fact that Democratic activists sued over.

Those activists ended up winning their lawsuit. “I strongly disagree with the Ruling.  First, the authority to draw legislative districts has always been the responsibility of the legislature.  Recently, Democratic activists who have not been able to win elections because they run candidates who do not reflect the voters’ values…,” said Representative David Lewis (R-Harnett) in an email. Lewis is the author of the maps that were thrown out.

“I remind Democrats all the time that they don’t have a problem with the maps, they have a problem with the geography of our state.  This means the urban areas are heavily Democratic but the majority of the state is not. I am very optimistic that Republicans maintain control of the General Assembly unless the court creates a radical Democratic Gerrymandered map,” said Lewis when asked if he was hopeful that Republicans would remain in the majority after the districts are redrawn, a pretty accurate guess given the fact that Republicans get to draw them. 

This is also the excuse Lewis used to justify Republicans keeping control of the legislature even though Democrats win the majority of the votes.

“I think if you read what the decision says, what it says is that you had to make political gerrymandering overwhelming priority to in order to draw maps as partisan as these, and the [state] constitution does not protect political gerrymandering,” said Senate Minority Whip, Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe) in a phone interview when asked to respond to Lewis’s statement.

Van Duyn admits that when Democrats were in power they gerrymandered too and says that she was opposed to it then and is still opposed to it now. 

Van Duyn told The Mycenaean that she’s hopeful that the new maps will help Democrats gain more seats, or even a majority, something where both sides will need to work together and compromise if they want to get anything done. 

Her hope of gaining a majority just may come to fruition. The new maps that Republicans have drawn still have to be approved by the courts that struck them down, and many say that there’s a high chance the courts won’t approve them. The whole reason the districts were struck down was that they were partisanly drawn and didn’t accurately represent the state but as DKElections staff writer Stephen Wolf said in a tweet on Tuesday “The median districts backed Trump by 12% vs. his 4% statewide win. Expect further court action.”.

If the court rules against the remedial maps, that means they are allowed to appoint Stanford professor Nathaniel Persily to redraw them. Persily was in charge of a redraw of similar circumstances in Pennsylvania where he turned a gerrymandered 13-5 map in favor of Republicans into an evenly split 9-9 map. Now advocates for independent redistricting are hoping he gets to work his magic on NC. 

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