August 9, 2017/Press

ICYMI: Editorial Boards Across the State Slam GOP Stall Tactics on Redistricting

Newspapers across the state are slamming the unconstitutionally elected Republican caucus’ attempts to stall on drawing new legislative maps, laying bare how Republicans are turning their backs on the people they’re supposed to represent so they can hold onto power for as long as possible.

Rocky Mount Telegram: Enough stalling, GOP, redraw the maps

“Then there’s the argument that they don’t have time, now, to get district maps drawn in 30 days. That’s laughable. I’ll bet a donut there is a fully prepared, computer-drawn map sitting in either state or national GOP headquarters that does the absolute best it can to maintain the Republicans’ disproportional bounty of seats.”

Asheville Citizen Times: NCGA’s pitiful stall tactics only delay justice

“Quite simply, the effect of the most recent court ruling is to leave half of North Carolina’s people effectively without a voice in state government until 2019. We understand the cost and confusion that would result from multiple elections next year, but the price is little enough to pay for fair representation.”

WRAL: Voters must hold legislators accountable on redistricting

“While legislators don’t appear willing to go out of their way to fully engage with their constituents, that doesn’t mean citizens should let them get away with it.”

Rocky Mount Telegram: Enough stalling, GOP, redraw the maps
By Paul O’Connor
August 9, 2017

The wrangling between federal judges and GOP legislators brings to mind an episode from early childhood.

That’s a long way of getting to my point, but maybe you’ve noticed the parallel between the U.S. Court of Appeals order, backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, that 28 legislative districts be redrawn, and the legislature’s infantile defenses, obfuscations and delaying tactics.

Foremost, legislators want to avoid new elections before they convene again in the spring, or maybe even again this year, to strip Roy Cooper of more powers and find new ways to suppress voter turnout.
In what is a totally fallacious argument, they’re saying voters elected legislators to two-year terms and therefore legislators should serve two years. But the courts have said that the elections were fraudulent and illegal. So, they don’t full two-year terms. If you steal someone’s season tickets to the Carolina Panthers and get caught after game four, you don’t get to use the tickets for the next four games and the playoffs.

Then there’s the argument that they don’t have time, now, to get district maps drawn in 30 days. That’s laughable. I’ll bet a donut there is a fully prepared, computer-drawn map sitting in either state or national GOP headquarters that does the absolute best it can to maintain the Republicans’ disproportional bounty of seats.

But they argue that with a 30-day deadline, they wouldn’t have time for public hearings. That’s really funny. When has this crowd listened to anyone? If people disagree with the next set of gerrymandered districts, they’ll probably order police to arrest them.

Publishing new maps now creates two problems for the GOP. First, it infuriates the Republican legislators who benefitted by the illegal districts and who will face competitive re-election campaigns for the first time when there are fair maps. The leadership needs time to explain to them that they are the sacrificial lambs in this effort to save their skewered democracy. Second, it makes it possible for the court to order early elections once legal maps are ready.

While I don’t fully remember my failed 1957 procrastination, I suspect my ultimate goal that evening was not only to stay up until my usual bedtime but beyond it. And I bet today that the Republican strategy is to so monkey wrench the judicial process that no maps are passed until after the 2018 elections, thus guaranteeing one more illegally elected General Assembly.

It is the job of the federal appeals court to assure that doesn’t happen, just as it was mom’s job to send me to bed early.

Read more here.

Asheville Citizen Times: NCGA’s pitiful stall tactics only delay justice
By the Editorial Board
August 7, 2017

North Carolina voters got less than half a loaf from three federal judges last week. The decision was just one more step in tweaking an election system that is hopelessly broken.

The two parties are roughly equal in North Carolina, as shows by the close gubernatorial race last year. Yet, Republicans control 10 of 13 seats in the U.S. House, 74 of 120 N.C. House seats and 35 of 50 seats in the N.C. Senate.

Quite simply, the effect of the most recent court ruling is to leave half of North Carolina’s people effectively without a voice in state government until 2019. We understand the cost and confusion that would result from multiple elections next year, but the price is little enough to pay for fair representation.

In the long run, however, the only answer is to take districting out of the hands of those who benefit from how the lines are drawn. The Iowa example is instructive here.

In 1980, Iowa set up an independent five-member Legislative Services Agency to draw the lines for legislative and congressional districts. The majority and minority leaders of each house of the Iowa legislature pick one member apiece and those four pick the fifth.

The districts must be “convenient and contiguous,” they must “preserve the integrity of political subdivisions like counties and cities” and they must “to the extent consistent with other requirements, [be] reasonably compact.”

The maps are presented to the legislature, which may approve or reject the bill without altering it (the legislature can provide feedback). If the legislature rejects the plan, the LSA must draft a second proposal. If the legislature rejects the second proposal, the LSA must draft a third, and final, set of maps. If the legislature rejects this plan, it may then approve its own maps.

Since the implementation of this process, the state legislature has never chosen not to approve an LSA proposal, or to alter the law.

When Democrats controlled the General Assembly, Republicans wanted an independent commission and Democrats did not. Now, Democrats want one and Republicans don’t.

Well, not all Republicans. Rep. Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville was prime sponsor of a House bill this year to set up an Iowa-style system in North Carolina. Neither that bill nor a Senate companion went anywhere. All of Buncombe’s four Democratic legislators were on board.

We hope McGrady renews his efforts next year and get enough of his fellow Republicans on board so that voters in the future can get a full loaf.

Read more here.

WRAL: Voters must hold legislators accountable on redistricting
By the Editorial Board
August 4, 2017

When the General Assembly’s redistricting committees meet today there’s a sense of urgency and purpose they haven’t been accustomed to. There is a federal court order. There are judges shining a spotlight on their work that will be examined and dissected in minute detail.

Legislative leaders have given little assurance that they intend to create fair and balanced or even lawful legislative districts. The committees’ leaders will cry crocodile tears, complaining that overbearing judges have imposed a tight deadline that will allow only limited public participation.

House and Senate Redistricting Chairmen Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett and Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, already are blaming the judges, who frankly have been far too tolerant of legislative procrastination and secrecy.

They should go the extra mile, put in the extra hours and make sure there’s a transparent process to create fair districts. Lewis has said there would be hearings around the state but wouldn’t provide details. Rep. Duane Hall, D-Wake, posted a Tweet Thursday saying there would be simultaneous hearings at six locations on Aug, 22 with a vote on the maps a couple of days later. There should be a sincere opportunity for citizen input, not merely a perfunctory display to pretend to satisfy the court.

The demands and deadlines handed down by the federal judges aren’t an invitation to cut corners. They should be embraced as guidelines for engagement and transparency.

We encourage other groups, regardless of their partisan or political alignments, to come up with, and submit to the legislature, plans that embrace a nonpartisan approach.

Those plans should have districts that are: Compact, to coincide with the boundaries of cities and towns and avoid splitting counties; Contiguous and not merely joined at the corners; Follow state and federal laws, adhere to the Voting Rights Act and state constitutional mandates; and Ignore voter registration, voter turnout and results of past elections and residence of incumbents or challengers.

If the court is compelled to impose redistricting maps – which will quite likely be the case, it will have ready examples to work from.

While legislators don’t appear willing to go out of their way to fully engage with their constituents, that doesn’t mean citizens should let them get away with it.

Show up at the meetings and go online to offer concerns about the process and proposed districting plans. Let legislators and the court know voters want a fair plan and won’t settle for anything less.

Read more here.

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