Posted by Shadi Matar on February 26, 2016 in Blog
Allegations of racial gerrymandering in North Carolina’s 1st and 12th districts have gone to trial over what some say are the the worst cases of racially motivated district maps in the country.
North Carolina state officials recently asked the Supreme Court to postpone a District Court decision that would require them to re-draw the boundary lines of two congressional districts. The two congressional districts were previously determined to be unconstitutional by the District Court.
The District Court decision cited that the current maps that were drawn in 2011 are unconstitutional, based on racial discrimination, and must be redrawn before the state primaries. The court found that the original map had packed too many black voters in the two Democratic districts in an attempt to impact election outcomes.
In their request to the Supreme Court for an emergency stay, North Carolina officials claimed that the process for holding a March primary had already begun, thus potentially causing confusion of re-drawing district lines in the midst of an election. The Supreme Court denied the request for a stay without ruling on the Constitutionality of the districts.
The district lines will not be redrawn before the March 15 presidential primary date so the state legislature has pushed the primary date to June 7 with the hopes that extra time will allow them to agree to a new map.
This is not the only effort by North Carolina lawmakers to reduce political power of black voters in the state. The legislature previously approved widely criticized voter ID laws and eliminated same-day registration which was popular with voters. Critics of the laws argue that this intentionally targets black voters and discourages them from voting and suppresses their constitutional right to vote.
North Carolina is only one example of the widespread problem political gerrymandering that is impacting races across the country. Gerrymandered district maps on on trial in states including Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Illinois, Florida, just to name a few.
And in Texas, after the decision that the Supreme Court would not take the North Carolina case, the state announced that a similar voter ID law that had previously been blocked would take effect immediately and would not need federal approval. The law would require voters to bring a government issued ID to the polls which has a discriminatory effect on poor, minority voters.
The request to redraw the maps have led Republicans in the state to scramble to draw up a new map to preserve their 10-3 control in the legislature. The new map that has been drawn by Republicans has been criticized for dividing up incumbent districts and adding territory to other districts that had previously not been represented in the state legislature before.
Some have speculated that the recent passing of Justice Antonin Scalia may have played a factor in the Supreme Court not taking the North Carolina case because he was expected to vote in favor staying with the lower courts decision and not redrawing districts ahead of 2016 voting.
Gerrymandering is an ugly part of the U.S. political process and has resulted greatly diminished races as a result. State parties across the country should be working towards fair and free elections, and getting all people – no matter their affiliation – to the voting booth.