North Carolina Democrats have won a battle over the fairness of the state’s congressional and state legislative maps. The state Supreme Court rejected the cards that give the GOP the edge.
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North Carolina Democrats have won a big victory in a long-running battle over whether the state’s congressional and state legislative maps are fair. In a state where Democratic candidates often receive nearly half of the vote, the North Carolina Supreme Court rejected a congressional map that gives the GOP the advantage in 10 of 14 seats. The decision comes as the country’s Democrats are winning lawsuits challenging Republican-drawn maps while drawing their own extreme gerrymanders. Reporting by WFAE’s Steve Harrison from Charlotte.
STEVE HARRISON, BYLINE: Most of North Carolina’s population growth in recent decades has been driven by cities like Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro, which are heavily Democratic. But the map of Congress drawn by Republican lawmakers last December split those urban counties into three districts, significantly diluting the strength of Democratic voters. Republican mappers also moved black voters one seat in Congress to the rural northeastern part of the state that was historically represented by an African American. Lawyer Allison Riggs, who is representing one of the plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit, said it raised alarm bells.
ALLISON RIGGS: And that’s very suspicious and problematic, and no good rationale has been offered for it.
HARRISON: She says the experts are using statistical analysis to show that the map was…
RIGGS: Intentionally drawn to entrenching Republicans in power, no matter how voters’ wills change.
HARRISON: The state Supreme Court agreed. In a 4-3 decision along party lines, Democratic justices ordered the legislature to draw new maps and show statistical analysis that the new districts are fair. Republican lawmakers are expected to propose a new map that gives them the advantage with nine seats instead of 10, but with more competitive districts. The North Carolina Democrats want a map likely to split 7-7. Attorney Phil Strach, who represents the Republican legislature, told the court lawmakers needed a clear definition of what is fair.
PHIL STRACH: If the court believes it can guess a standard, it will have to legislate the outcome because it has to provide an objective standard or rule that the legislature can follow. It’s not enough to say, oh, just follow the will of the people.
HARRISON: As states finalize their Congressional maps, Democrats have won some big victories. Courts in Ohio and Pennsylvania have also rejected Republican-drawn maps, and in states like Maryland and New York, Democrats have passed maps that are arguably more gerrymandered than North Carolina. The New York map, for example, gives the Democrats the advantage in 22 of the 26 seats. Andrew Romeo of the Republican State Legislative Committee said Democrats are only selectively against gerrymandering.
ANDREW ROMEO: And all you have to do is watch, well, if that’s really how they feel, then why didn’t they sue in Maryland or New York against liberal gerrymanders there -low?
HARRISON: New York Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney told MSNBC his party wants to have independent redistricting commissions but, quote, “unilaterally disarming is not the answer.”
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SEAN PATRICK MALONEY: I’m a guy who wants to bring a gun to a shootout. Yeah, you bet. And I think Democrats need to stand up and fight and defend our democracy.
HARRISON: J. Miles Coleman of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia says that when redistricting began, many thought Republicans could essentially win the House before the election by controlling redistricting in Texas, Georgia, Florida and in North Carolina. That has changed, he says.
J MILES COLEMAN: If the Democrats lose the House later this year, it will likely have more to do with the national environment than how the lines were drawn.
HARRISON: In North Carolina, a court is expected to rule on a new map by February 23. And that map could help Democrats jump from three or four seats to five or six. For NPR News, I’m Steve Harrison in Charlotte.
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