Republican legislative leaders insist that they redraw fair maps per the federal court’s directive, making sure that race has played no part in their construction. Thus, both the State House and Senate Republican majorities have approved their maps with few changes, over the objections of Democrats and citizens statewide who pleaded for a nonpartisan process.
Anita Earls, lead attorney in the Covington lawsuit that led the US Supreme Court and a federal court to order the GOP-led legislature to redraw the voting districts, maintains that is “just lying,” that the court eliminated the use of race in redrawing the districts. The federal court clearly ruled that race could not be the predominant factor.
“This is the worst [racial] gerrymander anyone has seen in the country,” Earls said Tuesday, adding that the Republican spin on the court directive is just “open defiance.”
Those maps will be submitted to the three-judge panel on Friday, Sept. 1 for judicial review. If approved, those redrawn districts (28 of 170 were ruled to have been illegal racial gerrymanders when drawn per the 2011 redistricting plan), will be in effect for the 2018 midterm elections.
Democrats, on the other hand, counter that the process was anything but fair; highly partisan, and the newly redrawn maps will be seen as equally inadequate as before.
“I would have hoped that we could have worked more with the majority party on creating fair maps,” said Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth). “There’s nothing magical in creating fair, legal, compact districts. Whether or not the committee looked at race, the court will. You can’t say that you’ve fixed the issue if you haven’t done the appropriate analysis. A more balanced representation encourages more robust debate and discussion and creates better, more balanced, policy for the people. I look forward to serving the people of Forsyth County as I seek re-election.”
Rep. Pricey Harrison (D- Guilford) shared the frustration.
“…[T]he proposed plans do not offer an adequate remedy and do not represent appropriate remedies free from other constitutional flaws, including racial gerrymandering and grossly unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, “Rep. Harrison said. The proposed maps also violate the State Constitution’s Whole County Provision. In addition, the proposed Wake and Mecklenberg maps violate the State Constitution’s prohibition on mid-decade redistricting. I believe the maps will be challenged and may have a hard time passing muster with the federal court. I do not know if that will affect the 2018 elections, but we will be spending more taxpayer money defending the indefensible.
Republican Rep. Donny Lambeth said he wasn’t sure whether the new maps will be a done deal with the federal court but feels the court’s directions were properly followed.
“Always hard to know and predict,” the Forsyth County Republican said. “It appears the committee who worked on this followed the court order and it has been done by the deadline.”
State Sen. Joyce Krawlec (R-Forsyth) also believes the redistricting process was fair.
“The redistricting hearings have been thorough, transparent, and citizens have had the opportunity to provide input. I believe the districts are fair and constitutional. Only time will tell if another court case will be forthcoming. I do believe the districts will eventually be upheld and midterm elections will take place as scheduled.”
However, State Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford) clearly has little faith in the new GOP-drawn maps, and feels that the federal court may have to be the final arbiter.
“North Carolina is actually a purple state, having 2.6 million Democrats; 2 million Republicans and 2 million unaffiliated voters. So the reality is that manipulating the districts to be majority Republican is neither fair nor legal,” Sen. Robinson says. “The Republicans insisted that they did not consider race, but how can you remedy “racial gerrymandering” without looking at how they packed the districts with African Americans in 2010. The map they have now drawn for District 28 and even in Cumberland Districts 19 and 20 continue to be gerrymandered based on racial composition.”
Sen. Robinson continued, “The courts specifically looked at my District 28 and commented on its composition. Republicans are intent on protecting Senator Trudy Wade for whom they created a district by packing 28. I expect that the only remedy will be in the courts.”
Robinson’s Guilford County colleague, Rep. Amos Quick III, also a Democrat, agreed.
“The effect that we are seeing from these maps is still that some votes don’t count as much as others,” Rep. Quick said. “The courts have implied in their past rulings that that is unacceptable; and I hope that continues to be the case.”
Amen to that, agrees Rep. Evelyn Terry.
“Nuanced maps favoring or disfavoring individual interests, not fairness, will likely dominate the decision,” she said Tuesday. “Power and money impact public policy and political influence, absent character and integrity.”
Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford) concurred.
“In drawing these new maps, Republicans failed to use any racial date in order to fix their own illegal racial gerrymander. This leaves me concerned that the General Assembly will once again have drawn illegal maps. However, I believe an independent, non-partisan process enacted by the court could overall be in the best interest of North Carolina voters.”