Noting that the NC Republican legislative leadership is “dragging their feet” about doing anything that would fairly represent voters when it comes to redistricting, Congresswoman Alma Adams says they frankly “don’t give a damn about these citizens.”
“They see it as a disadvantage to themselves; they won’t do it,” Adams (D-NC-13) said in a telephone interview recently, referring to redrawing legislative voting districts in time for a special election this year.
Prior to adjourning the recent long session early last Friday, GOP leaders announced that the legislature will reconvene in August and September to take up unfinished business, such as overriding Governor Cooper’s vetoes, passing laws that didn’t meet the deadline, redrawing judicial districts, and responding to the four straight US Supreme Court decisions GOP lawmakers lost regarding voting rights and legislative redistricting.
But one of the issues House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro-tem Phil Berger ( R- Rockingham) apparently have no intention of entertaining when the NC General Assembly reconvenes in August is establishing an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission that, starting in 2020, would redraw legislative and Congressional voting districts without undue partisan influence.
Speaker Moore (R-Cleveland County) has said he opposes the independent commission because it would not be directly accountable to the voters since members would be chosen by both Republicans and Democrats. Sen. Berger just doesn’t like the idea, and has done everything in his chamber to even stop the issue from coming up.
A bill introduced to establish an independent commission was sent to committee over a month ago but never got a hearing. Two weeks ago, when a Democratic senator tried to have the bill heard and voted on, Republican opponents used a special procedure forcing him to wait ten days just to have his motion considered.
The legislature adjourned before the ten-day period expired.
A spokesperson for Sen. Berger issued a statement, which said in part, “Regardless of [the senator’s] political stunt, the courts have not yet given the legislature direction on redistricting, and we will be prepared to undertake a thorough redistricting process with ample notice and opportunities for public input when they do.”
“We have to have an independent commission,” Rep. Adams declared. “We have seen over the years, regardless of who is in control – Democrats or Republicans – that we have not gotten it right. For us to have the kind of [voting district] imbalance we have right now, with thirteen members of Congress from North Carolina – only three Democrats and ten Republicans – that is not reflective of our State. Our State is more balanced than that. We almost have a 50-50 Democrat/Republican [voter] makeup.”
But it’s because of how the Republicans, the party in charge, redrew the district lines in 2011 that more GOP’ers are able to get elected than Democrats in the State. Thus far, the US Supreme Court has frowned on the outcome.
On June 7, the State’s only three Democratic congress members – Representatives Adams, G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-12) and David Price (D-NC-4), wrote a letter to both Moore and Berger, “…urging them to increase access to the ballot box by establishing an independent redistricting commission and refraining from creating any new voter ID laws that contribute to voter suppression,” according to a press release.
“At a time when we should be making it easier for all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy, General Assembly Republicans used unconstitutional redistricting and voter ID legislation for political gain,” said Congressman Price. “These efforts to suppress the minority vote violate our nation’s hard fought commitment to equal protection and voting rights, and I strongly condemn them. The time has come for Speaker Moore and Senator Berger to put a stop to these shameful tactics and for the State to put in place reforms that will ensure fair elections in North Carolina.”
Apparently Moore and Berger weren’t impressed, however, rejecting the Democratic request outright and accusing Adams, Butterfield and Price of “showboating” with the letter, instead of just picking up the phone, she said.
“They don’t give a damn about these citizens,” an exasperated Adams said, “and they’re not fooling me at all. I’ve worked with them, and I can tell you that they don’t care.”
“Sometimes you have to put things before the public, and sometimes the public needs to understand what’s going on,” Rep. Adams continued. “People have got to understand that when we go to the polls to vote,…we have got to make sure that we have a legislature [that represents the true makeup of the people] the next time around because we may not get an independent commission.”