North Carolina GOP plays sore loser after court strikes down its gerrymandering scheme

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One month ago, the North Carolina Republicans' most recent gerrymander was struck down by the courts. Now they are trying to pretend state Democrats are the ones engaged in shenanigans.

One month ago, in early September, a panel of judges struck down the North Carolina Republicans' gerrymander of the state's legislative maps, finding that the GOP's "carefully crafted maps, and not the will of the voters" dictated election outcomes and majority control of the General Assembly. Those maps, enacted in 2017, had replaced a 2011 GOP gerrymander that had also been ruled unconstitutional for different reasons.

On Wednesday, the North Carolina Republicans attempted to pretend it was the North Carolina Democratic minority in the legislature that was somehow nefarious, accusing them of a "redistricting scheme."

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The gerrymandered maps were drawn by Republican lawmakers to ensure that even if most North Carolina voters wanted to elect a Democratic majority in their legislature, they would be unable do to so. By packing as many Democratic voters as possible into a small number of districts, they created enough solidly Republican districts that their control was effectively guaranteed. The maps violated the state's constitution, which guarantees free elections, equal protection, and freedom of speech and assembly.

Now, as legislators consider how to create new maps for the 2020 elections, the state GOP baselessly accused the Democratic minority of doing exactly what it was just slapped down for by the courts, something that it had once claimed was just fine. In announcing a "public records request into House Democrats' redistricting scheme," party spokesperson Jeff Hauser made a litany of seemingly contradictory allegations accusing Democrats of being less than transparent while they "openly" worked on the maps.

"House Republicans were committed to an open and transparent process to comply with a court order," Hauser wrote. "On the other hand, House Democrats openly consulted with outside counsel and experts, used map software, and kept partisan staffers like Daniel Jacobson available on demand to approve any changes to ensure maximum advantage." Jacobson, a redistricting reform advocate, represented Common Cause North Carolina in the successful court challenge to the 2017 GOP gerrymander.

Hauser did not immediately respond to a request for evidence for these claims. But in a phone interview, North Carolina Democratic Party Communications Director Robert Howard said that the GOP's accusations should not be taken seriously.

"I think we all had a good laugh about that over here at the party," he said. "Republicans have been anything but transparent for the last decade as they've carved up North Carolina and silenced voters based on their racial and partisan backgrounds.

Howard also noted that the Republican Party's demand for Democratic lawmaker's records is especially ironic given GOP lawmakers' own attempts to circumvent disclosure laws — including in the redistricting trial.

"The Republican majority has used 'legislative privilege' to essentially shut down any public record requests made to the legislature for 10 years. So this request is laughable," he said.

After the court ruling, state Senate GOP leader Phil Berger claimed the decision "contradicts the Constitution and binding legal precedent," but vowed to "respect the court’s decision and finally put this divisive battle behind us. Nearly a decade of relentless litigation has strained the legitimacy of this state’s institutions, and the relationship between its leaders, to the breaking point. It’s time to move on." It does not appear the state party headquarters got this message.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.