The worst-kept secret on Jones Street is that Republicans probably have maps for new legislative districts in a locked drawer somewhere. This, while they’re pretending, in court hearings, to be worried about having enough time to draw and approve new districts – as directed by courts who found 28 of their existing districts to be racially gerrymandered.
But if a new map got out, Republican leaders might alienate some of their own members who might come out with a disadvantage in their re-election bids.
So they appear to be stalling. And to just insult Democrats a little bit more, they’ve brought in Thomas Hofeller, a veteran GOP consultant who helped draw the 2011 maps that included those legislative and congressional districts found by no less than federal courts to be racially gerrymandered, to draw the maps again. That’s just an in-your-face move at the Democrats from a woefully immature Republican leadership that governs like a schoolyard bully.
Ah, but in court, Republicans can’t do that, evidenced by an appearance this week before three federal judges in Greensboro who went after GOP lawyers over why there has been such a delay in the drawing of new districts as ordered by the courts.
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The most pointed moment in the hearing came when Phil Strach, attorney for the GOP leaders in the legislature, said challengers to the districts were being unreasonable in demanding a faster timeline for drawing the districts. Strach said the timeline would mean legislative leaders would have a tough time holding hearings about the new districts across the state.
“That’s your fault,” said Judge Catherine Eagles. Legislative leaders have known since early June that the U.S. Supreme Court had unanimously upheld lower court rulings against the racial gerrymandering.
Eagles also got down to business in pointing out that there was no need for Republicans to start redistricting “over from scratch” because “The only purpose is to correct the unconstitutional districts.”
Exactly. Republicans are playing the stall game as long as they can, hoping somehow to preserve the current, gerrymandered districts through the next election. At least, that’s what they appear to be doing.
And their delaying tactics are hurting potential Democratic candidates, as they well know – and as they intend.
Rep. Grier Martin of Wake County noted that potential legislative candidates can’t get started with their campaigns if they don’t know what districts are going to look like, and that hinders essentially the entire democratic process.
But of course, if Republicans cared about that they would not have drawn the maps they approved in the first place.
Everyone, Republican and Democrat, accepts the fact that some partisanship is expected and allowed when the party in power gets the right to draw new districts after every Census. But while Democrats have in the past certainly drawn districts in their favor, they didn’t carry it to the extremes that the long-out-of-power Republicans did in 2011.
GOP leaders have lost in court. So why do they appear determined to drag out the process of redrawing districts?
Eagles found the reasoning wanting. “You don’t seem serious,” she told Strach. “So what’s our assurance that you are serious about remedying this?” Another judge on the panel, Jim Wynn, strongly agreed with Eagles. (Judge Thomas Schroeder was the third member of the panel.)
With their delays, Republicans are embarrassing themselves and acting against the interest of fair elections, which means their delaying tactics are acting against the interest of North Carolina, that interest being competent, fair representation.
Republicans won the 2010 election and came to power. Why do they seem to believe that although they won fair and square, they cannot maintain power in the same way? If their ideas are as right and popular as they think they are, they should have no hesitation to draw fair districts and stand by their records.