All one needs to know to question the revised congressional districts as drawn by Republican legislative leaders is that the main objective was not fairness, or common sense, or practicality. It was protecting the 10-3 Republican dominance of the congressional delegation.
To do that, Republicans didn’t just redraw the two districts federal judges found to be unconstitutional because of racial gerrymandering. They came up with a map that includes changes in multiple districts and some radical differences that present a downright curious set of circumstances: Democratic U.S. Rep. David Price of the 4th District and Republican Rep. George Holding of the 13th would live in the same district. The changes have to be approved by the federal court.
A couple of districts would literally move across the state. Oh, and congressional primaries would be reset with new rules because of the confusion.
Yes, the districts would be more compact. But Sen. Dan Blue, a former state House speaker and one of the General Assembly’s most respected members, called the new maps “a direct assault on democracy.”
Blue said the map still concentrates African-American voters. “You again managed,” he said to Republicans, “to stuff about half the black population in the state” into three districts. Blue basically said Republicans haven’t fooled anyone. They said they would not use race in drawing the new districts – racial gerrymandering is unconstitutional – but Blue contends they’ve substituted party affiliation for race, to give themselves an advantage. The courts have allowed some measure of partisan gerrymandering in the drawing of districts.
The new maps will be reviewed by the courts. GOP lawmakers had been hoping they’d catch a legal Hail Mary pass from the U.S. Supreme Court – a stay on the lower court’s order because redrawing districts would disrupt the previously scheduled March 15 primary. But Chief Justice John Roberts entered an order late Friday effectively halting elections in those districts until new maps are approved.
This huge, confusing mess came about because following the 2010 census and the GOP takeover of the legislature, Republicans drew maps that would give them an advantage in elections for the General Assembly and Congress for a generation. Some partisanship was to be expected – to the victor, etc. But GOP lawmakers got politically greedy and went too far.
So now the state’s election maps are essentially in geographic chaos, drawn at the direction of leaders who started the process, again, not with a wish to keep a small majority of the state’s congressional delegation in Republican hands but to keep 10 of 13 seats for their party. That objective skewed the process and has resulted in maps that will be utterly confusing to voters.
Is that serving democracy?