Effort to do something about gerrymandering in North Carolina

A web article (with accompanying videos) from Raleigh's WRAL television reports on efforts to persuade the North Carolina legislature to do something about its extreme gerrymandering. Federal courts, with the backing of the Supreme Court, have ruled that districts were drawn with clear intent to concentrate African American voters into just a few districts, so the legislature is being forced to redraw districts by September 1.

Last year the state's voters elected Democrat Roy Cooper governor, making Republican Pat McCrory the only incumbent Republican governor in the United States to lose a bid for reelection in 2016. But thanks to the aggressive gerrymandering, the legislature is overwhelmingly Republican, by 74-46 in the state House of Representatives and 35-15 in the state Senate.

Unfortunately, the chairman of the Joint House-Senate Redistricting Committee, Representative David Lewis (R-Harnett County), has made it clear he sees nothing wrong with gerrymandering that has given Republicans a 10-3 advantage in its congressional representation. Last year he argued that the split was reasonable by declaring, "I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and 2 Democrats."

Republicans respond that Democrats also engaged in gerrymandering when they were in power prior to 2011. That's true, but their gerrymandering was less extreme. In the 2010 election, for example, 54 percent of the voted cast for federal representatives went to Republican candidates, but Democrats wound up with a 7-to-6 split of the seats. In 2012, the first when the Republican map was in effect, Democratic candidates received 51 percent of the votes but Republicans ended up with a 9-4 advantage in the congressional delegation. (In subsequent years Republican candidates collected 53 or 54 percent of the votes but 77 percent of the seats, a 10-3 split.)

The federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year (PDF) that multiple changes in voting laws passed by the Republican-controlled legislature were clearly designed to suppress black voter turnout in the state. After the court's ruling the state GOP invented ways to get around it, with some success. This past November, in fact, the state Republican Party issued a press release celebrating that (and I quote):

African American Early Voting is down 8.5% from this time in 2012.

Caucasian voters early voting is up 22.5% from this time in 2012.

As a share of Early Voters, African Americans are down 6.0%, (2012: 28.9%, 2016: 22.9%) and Caucasians are up 4.2%, (2012: 65.8%, 2016: 70.0%).

According to WUNC-FM (an NPR affiliate), on July 27 two federal judges expressed concern that the legislature isn't taking the court-ordered redistricting seriously. Indeed, the committee has only just started holding meetings in the wake of court order issued more than a year ago.

Here state Democrats propose ways of conducting future redistricting that give neither party an unfair advantage. (This runs half an hour, so you might not want to sit through the whole thing.)

Below is the hearing at which people spoke on fair rather than partisan redistricting. Be warned that it runs an hour and half.

Related posts from last year:

And from last month:

(Updated 2017 August 9 to add a reference to the WUNC-FM report from July 27.)

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