Editorial: Court rejects more legislative gerrymandering and meddling in local governments

April 5, 2017 GMT

A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, April 5, 2017; Editorial # 8144<br /> The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company

The message coming from U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles to the North Carolina General Assembly this week was clear and simple.

Rigging election districts into unequal populations to guarantee the success of one political party over another is illegal. Packing minority voters into segregated voting districts to guarantee the success of one political party over another is illegal.

This assault on voters and frivolous interference in local governments is no game and the legislature should end it, now.

One person, one vote, is a bedrock constitutional principle, famously affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1962 Baker v. Carr case. It isn’t anything that legislative leaders haven’t heard repeatedly in the last five or six years as their large and small redistricting schemes have been found illegal.

In four legal challenges to various state and local voting redistricting plans the legislature has passed, federal courts have termed each unconstitutional.

Last year there had to be a special primary for the state’s congressional candidates after the federal courts ruled the legislature’s congressional redistricting plan violated the law.

Then, last summer, a federal court ruled that the legislature’s uninvited effort to draw new districts for the Wake County Commission and School Board violated the law.

Coming after that was a scathing federal appeals court condemnation of the way the state’s legislative districts were drawn.

And just this week, federal court Judge Eagles was unsparing in her criticism of the illegal gerrymandering in the Greensboro case: “All the credible evidence points in one direction: a ‘skewed, unequal redistricting’ intentionally designed to create partisan advantage by increasing the weight of votes of Republican-leaning voters and decreasing the weight of votes of Democratic-leaning voters. This evidence is unchallenged and uncontroverted.”

It is not at all rash to say that the leadership of the General Assembly, particularly since 2011, has swung the ideological pendulum too far and too fast.

The Greensboro case has all the typical ear-marks of other radical actions by the legislature. The legislation was concocted by a single legislator with no communication or input from other legislators in the area nor any of those who would be impacted by the bill. There was little public discussion and cursory debate.

The sponsor, Sen. Trudy Wade of Guilford County, also used legislative maneuvering -- again without consulting others who might have a direct interest in the legislation – to get it passed.

The latest legislative brainchild has been the rushed imposition of partisan elections for local district and superior court judges. It all became law over the veto of Gov. Roy Cooper and already legislators are talking about drawing new judicial district lines to favor GOP judicial candidates.

There seems to be no limit to the efforts at partisan over-reach in the current General Assembly.

North Carolina voters, as evidenced in ungerrymandered statewide races such as the elections for governor and attorney general last year, recognize and don’t tolerate partisanship run amok.

We need to end the state-sponsored gerrymandering now. Legislative leaders should also come to their senses and end the legal appeals to the lost-cause redistricting cases. Finally, they need to recognize their rush to legislate leads to more problems than it solves and that voters will go to the polls in 2018 looking to make some course corrections.