Berger: Why Cooper's call for special session voted down
Gov. Roy Cooper is taking it to the General Assembly when it comes to insisting on an early election using new legislative district maps that will pass muster with courts as constitutionally proper.
That’s more than can be said for current maps that have been rejected by the courts, including to some degree by the U.S. Supreme Court, which saw unconstitutional racial gerrymandering in the maps. But Republican legislative leaders, who made a partisan hash of drawing district lines after the 2010 census – using racial gerrymanders that packed African-American voters into a few districts and thus strengthened Republican control in others – want to delay things as long as they can. That’s outrageous. If more elections are held with districts that are unconstitutional, that would be an affront to democracy itself.
The battle over districts has dragged on for too long as Republican legislative leaders don’t want to admit they drew maps with all the skill of a kindergarten class finger painting, though with less common sense and with hard partisan objectives.
Pat McCrory, the weak Republican governor whom Cooper dispatched after one ineffective term, didn’t stand in the way of lawmakers, of course.
But Cooper, a former lawmaker and a politician of skill, has put GOP lawmakers right where they belong: on the spot.
The governor is in effect taking his case to the people and saying to the GOP majority on Jones Street: OK, the courts say you’re wrong. Do you simply intend to ignore the separation of powers and to thumb your nose at the courts?
Republican lawmakers have it in their power to draw new districts and to do it quickly, though perhaps not with the partisan advantage they created for themselves with the districts rejected by the courts. That said, some partisanship is expected in redistricting, so they likely could easily retain an advantage even with districts that were more fair, and sensible.
Alas, that’s not good enough. Apparently, Republicans aren’t really all that confident about their performance in the eyes of the public since the GOP took control of the legislature in 2011. Because, after all, they seem unable to draw districts that would produce a fair fight; they want the fix to be in.
It’s true, of course, that when Democrats were in charge they loved to give themselves an advantage in drawing districts. That wasn’t right, but they didn’t do this partisan poison-pill operation to the extreme the Republicans have done it.
Cooper’s pretty clear as to how best to settle the dispute: Let’s have decent lines, and then let’s allow the people to make the final decision. There is no viable GOP answer for that, not that logic will stop the Republican leadership.
Correction: An earlier version of the editorial incorrectly said Gov. Roy Cooper was seeking an early election for state legislative offices this year. He is seeking an election prior to the next regular election in November 2018.