>>Last year I had the opportunity to speak with Paula Wolf, a former North Carolina lobbyist, about the current state of North Carolina politics. And she warned me, “Many people don’t realize how much power the legislature has over their lives in so many ways. People say, ‘Oh, I’m not political,’ or, ‘I can’t stand politics.’ Well, everything is political.”
Even your house address. Which, as of late, may be moving to a new congressional district.
Here’s what’s happening: The Supreme Court, late Friday afternoon, turned down a request to put on hold a ruling by a lower Federal Court calling for the North Carolina legislature to redraw their districts because “strong evidence that race was the only non-negotiable criterion and that traditional redistricting principles were subordinated to race” in the redrawing of the First and 12 th Districts. In other words, gerrymandering. Editorials in the >>Charlotte Observer , the >>News and Observer , >>Wilmington Star News , the >>Ashville Citizen-Times all called for the political gamesmanship to end, but it seems that the legislature is up for another round.
Hours before the Supreme Court refused to grant the stay, the North Carolina State Legislature passed a contingency plan of redrawn districts, but these new districts are being accused of gerrymandering as well.
In a >>letter to both the state house and senate leaders, Representative G.K. Butterfield writes “It is a clear violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to draw districts that do not protect the voting interest of African American communities. To concentrate black voters into districts that dilute their voting strength is a violation of the law. In Harris v. McCrory, the court stated that race should not be the predominant factor in drawing the districts. However, the court did not say that race should not be a factor at all.”
In direct contradiction to Butte rfield’s remarks, State Representative David R. Lewis (R), co-chairman of the redistricting committee, said, “Race was not considered, and is not present in these reports.”
So what was present? A numbers game. The magic number? 10-3. That is the current ratio of Republicans to Democrats in U.S. Congress. The new districts were drawn in order to preserve that majority.
So what does this mean for voters? What does this mean for people who are currently running for Congress?
A lot of confusion.
For example, consider U.S. Representative Alma Adams from the 12 th District, one of the districts gerrymandered in the 2011 redistricting. It is a circuitous district, as >>Rob Christensen writes, “ snaking along Interstate 85 from Charlotte to Greensboro and connecting black communities.” Congresswoman Adams lives in Greensboro, NC.
The new 12 th District? It’s in Charlotte. See the problem?
While Congresswoman Adams >>told the Charlotte Observer she ’s “going to make sure that we work hard and win it,” the quick change and tight deadlines will make it a challenge.
And Adams isn’t the only one whose campaign this has thrown into chaos. Representative George Holding (R), of the 13 th District, lives in Raleigh, but his District has now moved to the western part of the state. He now lives in the 4 th Congressional District, which is currently represented by Rep. David Price (D). Instead of challenging Price, Holding has decided to run outside of his district in unprecedented challenge of 2 nd District incumbent Rep. Renee Elmers (R). Confused? Me, too.
In addition to the turmoil brought by the new districts, the congressional primaries will now be held on June 7th, separately from the March 15th presidential primaries and other contests. And yesterday, the plaintiffs from the 2011 redistricting case asked the lower Federal court to rule on the constitutionality of the new districts by March 18th .
The North Carolina State Legislature wields enormous power, in both the state and, as we can see by this gesture of saber-rattling, on the national stage. Politics is murky, confusing, and in order to really know what is going on, you have to pay attention all of the time. But if you don’t, you know what?
As Paula Wolf says, “Legislation will happen to you even if it doesn’t happen for you.”
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