It only makes sense.
Following the recent court decision requiring North Carolina’s legislative district map to be redrawn, a group of registered Democrats and independents filed suit in state court last week to overturn the state’s district map for U.S. House representatives. The rationale is the same: that the current map is drawn to favor Republicans in a way that violates the state constitution and disenfranchises many of the state’s voters.
The plaintiffs’ case is compelling. In a state in which Republicans and Democrats are roughly equal in number — 2.5 million Democrats and 2 million Republicans, according to data from the state Board of Elections — 10 of the 13 House seats went to one party. It’s obvious that artfully drawn maps are influencing the outcome.
The case could benefit from a little momentum created by the Sept. 3 court ruling that dozens of districts had to be redrawn because their lines were designed to retain large Republican majorities in the state House and Senate. “There is no dispute that the 2016 congressional map reflects an extreme and intentional effort to maximize Republican advantage,” the lawsuit reads. “Legislative defendants proudly admitted it at the time.”
The statement probably refers to Rep. David Lewis, a chief Republican mapmaker who said in 2016 that his map was designed to give Republicans a 10-3 seat advantage “because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”
Lewis later said he was joking, but not everyone thought he was funny. The plaintiffs last week pointed out such language as proof the map “may be the most extreme and brazen partisan gerrymander in American history.”
We’ll bet he wishes he could take that one back.
The challengers want new districts drawn in time for the 2020 elections. If they win, we’ll likely get more a more balanced legislature that is more representative of the state’s voters as a whole. But with candidate filings beginning in December for a March primary, there may be turbulence ahead.
State Republican leaders have complained that the suit is being bankrolled by an organization led by former Democratic Attorney General Eric Holder. They say Holder is targeting only states in which Republicans drew district maps. They also say the issue should be decided at the ballot box, not in the courts. But that’s an easy position to take when the ballot box is heavily tilted in their favor.
All of our election maps should be drawn as fairly as possible, allowing voters to elect officials who reflect and represent the political leanings of the actual people of the state. If our legislators won’t do it, they can’t fault citizens for seeking resolution with the courts. Better yet would be maps drawn by an independent commission.
Fair and transparent elections should be a nonpartisan issue. Beyond drawing fair maps, all of our legislators, Democrat, Republican and independent, should unite and pass effective laws that advance, encourage and honor participation in our democratic process — laws that makes voting easier for more people, not more difficult.
North Carolina could be the “The Good Voting State,” an example to the rest of the nation. But that has to start with fair representation.