The Republican majority on the N.C. Supreme Court is a solid group of Republican partisans, and it’s no secret, of course, for all the robes and the solemn surroundings of the high court and protestations of judicial impartiality. So it was no surprise Friday afternoon when the court issued a 4-3 ruling along party lines upholding state legislative and congressional districts that heavily favor Republicans.
The districts were drawn by Republicans after they took charge of both houses of the General Assembly following the 2010 election. It was an especially fortunate year to win – a census year. Following the census, it is the duty of legislators to redraw districts reflecting population gains, losses or shifts. In the past, Democrats helped themselves stay in power by drawing district lines friendly to Democrats running for the legislature.
But Republicans took the process to the level of full-fledged gerrymandering and ensured themselves deep-rooted control of the General Assembly and domination of the state’s congressional delegation, now 10-3 in favor of the GOP in the U.S. House.
One of the tactics Republicans used was to pack African-American voters into some districts, effectively giving Democrats the advantage, but leaving other districts with a virtual guarantee of Republican victory.
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The districts have faced a strong legal challenge – and thankfully still will as the case appears headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. It was that court that sent an earlier ruling by the state’s high court back down for further review. A ruling on gerrymandering in Alabama saw U.S. justices questioning the way minority voters were concentrated in some districts and the way the Alabama legislature went about drawing those districts.
And that ruling is what led the U.S. Supreme Court to return to North Carolina’s high court the gerrymandering case for review.
It’s a mystery as to why, after the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the North Carolina high court in April, that it took this long for the state court to essentially say, ho, hum, it was right the first time. Were state justices stalling to get in another election before the Supreme Court might throw out the lopsided maps?
Those who are interested in districts that reflect fairness and sound representation and common sense as priorities must hope that the nation’s high court, which is not as predictable on these sorts of matters, will reject North Carolina’s districts in favor of maps drawn with the public’s interest, and not a party’s interest, first and last in mind.