The real reason GOP defends racial gerrymanderingCash Michaels / June 23, 2017
There is a reason why Republicans in the N.C. General Assembly vigorously defend “stacking-and-packing” Black voters into a handful of so-called “majority-minority” voting districts when drawing congressional and legislative maps for North Carolina, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled the practice as unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.
A reason that Law Professor and Constitutional scholar Michael Curtis of Wake Forest University School of Law doesn’t buy.
Republicans maintain that they are complying with the mandate of the 1965 Voting Rights Act to create districts where Black voters have the ability to elect congressional and legislative representation of their choosing.
So several wildly constructed districts were created by the Republican majority where Black registered voters comprised at least fifty percent or more of the voting population.
“It all sounds like [Republicans] are wonderful and concerned with the rights of Blacks, doesn’t it?” Prof. Curtis asked rhetorically. “But the N.C. NAACP, Black legislators, and a bunch of others sued about it, and say that’s not the real story.
“In virtually every one of the districts the N.C. NAACP and others have challenged, the candidate of choice of Black voters was winning without a majority Black district,” Curtis continued. “In those districts, Blacks were less than 50 percent, but joined in coalition with White voters to elect candidates of their choice.
State Republicans, however, illegally and unconstitutionally twisted this reality.
“Instead of creating minority opportunity where it did not exist (as the 1965 VRA required), the (Republican) mapmakers drew districts where opportunity had been flourishing — where Black voters, though the minority, had been consistently electing their candidates of choice…” reported Sharon McCloskey in May 2013 for N.C. Policy Watch. “[Republicans]… simply added more, pulling Black voters across precinct, district and county lines to reach that 50 percent mark and beyond, up as high as 57 percent, and leaving whiter districts in their wake.
“As a result, the 1965 Voting Rights Act was actually used as a “gerrymandering device,” Prof. Curtis said, an excuse to move African American voters out of key voting districts where they could normally influence legislative and congressional races.
Curtis says state Republicans violated the N.C. Constitution when composing the 2011 legislative maps, ultimately making the legislative districts just about the worst in the nation. He maintains that the adoption of an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission is the best answer for the future.
What will happen now isn’t clear. A three-judge federal panel has ordered all sides in the legal dispute over the legislative maps to submit arguments as quickly as possible so that a hearing can be held and a determination as to when new maps are redrawn, and possible special elections are held.
A federal trial scheduled for next week in Greensboro challenging the 2016 congressional maps has now been postponed to an undetermined date.
And on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case challenging Republican partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin next fall as going too far, a case that many legal experts believe could have major ramifications for the nation, and especially North Carolina.