The new congressional district map for North Carolina is settled — for now. And though some will find it to be an improvement — and many will be glad that we can move on from the issue to the elections — it’s still not completely fair and shouldn’t be the final, final word. Following the election, good-government groups and North Carolina residents should continue to work for a better, more equitable map.
On Monday, a panel of three state judges upheld the redrawn map, thus allowing the filing period to begin. With primary elections on March 3, the State Board of Elections had requested a timely resolution by mid-December.
“As a practical matter, in the court’s view there is simply not sufficient time to fully evaluate the factual record necessary to decide the constitutional challenges of the congressional districts without significantly delaying the primary elections,” Judge Paul Ridgeway said. “It is time for the citizens to vote.”
We appreciate the concern for practicality, but it’s something like a doctor using duct tape and a ruler rather than a cast to set a broken arm.
Or, as N.C. Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin put it, “North Carolina Republicans yet again run out the clock on fair maps, denying justice to North Carolina voters and forcing our state to go another election using undemocratic district lines.”
The redrawn districts are a slight improvement, but they won’t be as competitive as they should be. Republicans and Democrats are roughly equal in number in North Carolina, but there will still be a Republican advantage, thanks to the party’s success in gerrymandering over the last decade. Ten of the 13 House seats belonged to solid Republican districts before the map was redrawn. Political analysts say the new map is likely to shift the outcome to eight solid Republican and five solid Democrat districts, with the 2nd and 6th districts flipping blue.
The 2nd district is entirely in Wake County. The 6th district, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican, has been redrawn to contain most of Winston-Salem, half of Kernersville and all of Guilford County, which makes it a less reliable win for him. In response, he’s currently keeping his options open; he may run again in the 6th or challenge an incumbent in the 10th or 13th district. He may even challenge Sen. Thom Tillis’ seat, the Journal reported Thursday.
“Rep. Walker is going to run where his constituents are,” spokesman Jack Minor said.
That’s kind of the problem.
If he does run again in the 6th, he’ll face a serious challenge from a Democrat — either former Guilford County Commissioner Bruce Davis Sr., who filed for the seat last week, or Greensboro’s Kathy Manning, who announced her candidacy via Twitter before the judges’ ruling was disclosed.
Fair and transparent elections should be a nonpartisan issue. A new congressional map will be drawn in 2022 after the U.S. Census, but before then, all of our legislators, Democrat, Republican and independent, should work together to authorize an independent commission to draw the lines. The results may not be perfect, but they will be better than allowing legislators to continue choosing their voters.
Residents who want to work for fair elections may resolve, in 2020, to support good-government groups like Common Cause N.C., with donations and volunteer efforts. We shouldn’t have to become activists to ensure fair elections, but with legislators who keep seeking unfair advantages, it may be the only way.