State Politics

Trevor Noah and lessons from decades of NC gerrymandering — in six minutes

Trevor Noah was able to boil down lessons in North Carolina gerrymandering into a six-minute segment that aired Jan. 24, 2018.
Trevor Noah was able to boil down lessons in North Carolina gerrymandering into a six-minute segment that aired Jan. 24, 2018. N&O file photo

Federal and state judges have spent many hours and many years talking about and listening to gerrymander claims in North Carolina.

On Wednesday night, Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah boiled down all those long-running arguments into a six-minute segment.

Though North Carolina was featured as “one of the most extreme examples of gerrymandering,” the late-night comedian wove in details of districts in Maryland, Illinois, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania as well.

[Warning: explicit language]

After airing news clips that described a Pennsylvania district as Goofy kicking Donald Duck and turned an Illinois district on its head to reflect earmuffs, Noah turned his focus to North Carolina’s Congressional District 12.

The district, a Democratic stronghold currently represented by Democrat Alma Adams, is now entirely within Mecklenburg County, but before court-ordered changes in 2016, Republicans and Democrats before them had drawn the district as a strip along the I-85 corridor.

“Observers say North Carolina’s 12th district straddling Interstate 85 is so narrow that you can open your car doors and kill everybody in it,” a commentator said in a clip showing the thin, snakelike district.

12th district (2)
North Carolina’s 12th congressional district before it was redrawn in 2016.

“Wow,” Noah responded. “That description got really dark.”

North Carolina, which has seen a lot of activity in court this month in gerrymander cases involving the congressional districts and state legislative districts, was also highlighted as a state where Republicans secured 10 of 13 U.S. House seats even though statewide results put them roughly even with Democrats.

“Good Lord, it’s like they found the cheat code to elections,” Noah said.

As courts wrestle with how far lawmakers can go in drawing new districts every 10 years for partisan advantage, Noah offered his own ruling on years of gerrymandering.

“As much as Russia may have worked to influence how Americans vote, America already has a system that invalidates many people’s votes before they’re even cast,” Noah said.

He even has his own answer to ridding American elections of gerrymandering.

Tie Sharpies to a bunch of Roombas, Noah said, and use the markings as districts.

“It’d be a lot more democratic...,” he said.

Anne Blythe: 919-836-4948, @AnneBlythe1

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer