N.C. judges: statehouse lines OK, but House districts gerrymandered
When the Supreme Court decided in June that the issue of gerrymandering was beyond the authority of the federal courts to decide, it invited state courts to step into the void.
On Monday, judges in North Carolina did just that, offering a split verdict: The judges approved the maps drawn for the state legislative districts but blocked the boundaries drawn for congressional districts.
The three-judge panel ruled that it was likely that the plaintiffs would ultimately succeed in proving that the U.S. House districts are "extreme partisan gerrymanders" in violation of the state constitution.
The judges acknowledged that redrawing congressional maps at such a late date could disrupt and even delay next year's congressional elections. "These consequences pale in comparison to voters of our state proceeding to the polls to vote, yet again, in congressional elections administered pursuant to maps drawn in violation of the North Carolina constitution."
The current congressional district boundaries were drawn based on the 2010 census.
The state judges, ironically, relied in their ruling on the findings from the federal court challenge to the districts which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned. The state judges said that case outlined a "detailed record of both partisan intent and the intended partisan effects of the 2016 districts."
The state judges cited the role played by Thomas Hofeller, a now-deceased Republican strategist and expert on drawing maps, that gave the GOP partisan advantage. Hofeller was instructed by GOP state legislators to draw maps to maintain the party's 10 to 3 advantage in the U.S. House. Prior to that, the state had a 7 to 6 breakdown of Democrats and Republicans in the House.
The plaintiffs who challenged the state legislative district maps — which were redrawn after the state court in September found some to be partisan gerrymanders — could appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.
So, could the election officials who are defendants in the challenge to the congressional districts.
But the three-judge panel suggested another solution: The General Assembly could "on its own initiative, act immediately and with due haste to enact new congressional district."
- Must read: The man behind North Carolina gerrymandering - The ... ›
- Redistricting process underway in North Carolina - The Fulcrum ›
More voters see "corruption in our political system" as the country's most pressing problem than any of the other issues getting greater attention in the 2020 campaign, new polling shows.
The online survey conducted in September asked voters whether seven different issues were an "extremely serious problem" for the country, and the only one where a majority said yes was political corruption; rising health care costs came in second at 49 percent.
The poll is only the latest to declare the electorate's dire concern about the broken political system. In just the last month, two-thirds of voters told one poll they believe the country is on the "edge of a civil war" and a plurality in another poll identified the government itself as the country's biggest problem.
But the topic of democracy reform is getting hardly any mention in the presidential race. Though most of the Democratic candidates have plans for limiting money in politics, making voting easier, securing elections and restoring the balance of powers, few have emphasized these ideas on the trail. And President Trump, who four years ago ran as the candidate most interested in "draining the swamp," rarely mentions this aspiration anymore.
A Democratic advocacy group has filed a third lawsuit in less than a month challenging Michigan laws and policies it says restrict voting rights.
The focus on Michigan voting laws by the super PAC Priorities USA reflects the importance of the state's 16 electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election. President Trump won Michigan, a swing state, by less than half a percentage point in 2016.
The latest lawsuit, filed Friday in state court, challenges actions taken after a successful 2018 ballot initiative expanded voting options, such as allowing people to register to vote at any time (including on Election Day). It also automatically registered people to vote when they obtained or renewed their driver's licenses.