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."
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Efforts to fend off election hackers in 2020 and beyond have revolved around protecting ballot equipment and the databases of registered voters. Little attention has been focused on the vendors and their employees.
But the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice is proposing that the vendors who make election equipment and related systems be subjected to heightened oversight and vetting, much like defense contractors or others involved in national security.
"There is almost no federal regulation of the vendors that design and maintain the systems that allow us to determine who can vote, how they vote, or how their votes are counted and reported," according to a new report from the nonpartisan policy institute.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has a message for corporations: The country is in trouble, so get off your butt.
The foundation made its pitch to the business community in a newly published white paper chronicling the sorry state of civics education, the role that corporations can play in healing a divided country and why it should all matter to businesses.
The health of civics education is "quite bleak," foundation President Carolyn Cawley said in an introduction to the paper, which she called "the first step in our efforts to make the business case for civics."
With the support and buy-in of the private sector, the foundation believes, the country stands a better chance at improving civic education and engagement, which in turn could heal the in-fighting, distrust and misinformation undermining the health of the country and well-being of corporate America.