On Monday the high court upheld a lower court ruling that declared 28 state legislative districts created by the GOP-led legislature in 2010 were illegal because they were racially gerrymandered and thereby violated the Voting Rights Act. In essence, legislators crammed certain districts with so many blacks that they effectively diluted their voting impact because it left other districts with so few.
At the lower court, plaintiffs argued that packing districts with so many black voters is no longer necessary in order to make sure these citizens are represented in the legislature. Judges agreed, saying districts that were more than 50 percent black were illegal.
By making such an argument — and winning — there’s a good chance the state could end up with fewer African-American lawmakers. But the plaintiffs who supported the case said diversity is about more than race, arguing that partisan diversity in legislative districts will lead to a more diverse legislature.
The plain truth is that by such blatant gerrymandering, the GOP leadership was effectively selecting our leaders for us instead of us selecting our leaders.
In another decision two weeks ago, the Supreme Court said two congressional districts drawn by the same legislative leaders were illegal — also because of racial gerrymandering. Smoky Mountain News guest columnist Martin Dyckman pointed out last week that this practice of packing districts with blacks is just not going to stand: “Here, as in other states with substantial minority populations, the 1965 law that was intended to assure their right to vote has been weaponized against them and against the political party that they tend to favor. Republican legislatures use the Voting Rights Act as a pretext to pack targeted districts with many more black voters than they actually need to elect representatives of their choice. This makes the surrounding districts whiter and more Republican.
And when they’re caught doing it, the perpetrators claim with straight faces that their purpose is to hurt Democrats, not blacks.”
And just a few days before that decision, in early May the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a decision striking down the GOP-created Voter ID law. That law created ID requirements for voting, shortened early voting periods and ended pre-registration for 16-year-olds. A lower court ruled that the General Assembly targeted “African-Americans with almost surgical precision” with that law, and a federal appeals court found that it was passed with “racially discriminatory intent.”
Three cases and three findings that the GOP’s legislative leaders tried to hold onto power by enacting laws and creating districts that discriminated against blacks. So here’s the reality: it’s 2017, and North Carolina’s leaders are still using tactics like those our great-grandfathers used to hold onto power, only today computers allow them to do it — as the one court has ruled — “with almost surgical precision.”
When you add it all up, it’s just a sad state of affairs. Not much more to be said.