Another week, another unanimous Supreme Court decision telling the State of North Carolina to fuck right off with their racist gerrymandering. Last week we told you about North Carolina state Senator Richard Rucho who sat down with his buddy state Rep. David Lewis and cooked up a scheme to pack all those pesky brown Democratic voters into a few federal districts. If anyone noticed, they would just say they were complying with the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by creating majority-minority districts. OMG, so clever!
That’s a grossly cynical distortion of the VRA, but these guys are seriously gross. So, they phoned up their favorite Republican mapfucker, Tom Hofeller, and told him to cook them up some Congressional Districts that had higher than 50% Black Voting Age Population (BVAP). And POOF, suddenly all the surrounding districts got a lot redder like magic!
Except the 4th Circuit said, “That’s not how the VRA works!”
And the Supreme Court said, “Yeah! What those guys said!”
And North Carolina said, “Fine! Guess we’ll figure out some other way to ratfuck it.”
But it turns out they’d also had that sumbitch Tom Hofeller work his magic on North Carolina’s state Senate and House Districts. And yesterday the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that tossed 28 illegally gerrymandered local Districts, too. Which is NICETIMES, YAY!
When the federal District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina first looked at these insanely racist districts in 2015, they said, “OMG! YOU MOTHERSCRATCHERS ARE THE CHEATINGEST CHEATERS THAT EVER LIVED! Y’ALL BETTER FIX THEM DISTRICTS AND REDO THOSE 28 ELECTIONS RIGHT NOW!” (More or less.)
North Carolina state Senators and Representatives serve two-year terms, which meant Republicans had already benefitted from their racist maps in three election cycles: 2012, 2014, and 2016. So the District Court told them they had stolen enough, and they had to redraw the legislative maps and hold a special election in November of 2017 for the second half of the Senate and House terms.
While special elections have costs, those costs pale in comparison to the injury caused by allowing citizens to continue to be represented by legislators elected pursuant to a racial gerrymander. The Court recognizes that special elections typically do not have the same level of voter turnout as regularly scheduled elections, but it appears that a special election here could be held at the same time as many municipal elections, which should increase turnout and reduce costs. A special election in the fall of 2017 is an appropriate remedy.
And this is where the Supreme Court parted ways with the trial judges. Because the Supreme Court looked at forcing the state to quickly redraw its districts and hold new elections half-way through the term and said, Eh…maybe the trial court didn’t think hard enough about this.
And in the context of deciding whether to truncate existing legislators’ terms and order a special election, there is much for a court to weigh. Although this Court has never addressed whether or when a special election may be a proper remedy for a racial gerrymander, obvious considerations include the severity and nature of the particular constitutional violation, the extent of the likely disruption to the ordinary processes of governance if early elections are imposed, and the need to act with proper judicial restraint when intruding on state sovereignty…Rather than undertaking such an analysis in this case, the District Court addressed the balance of equities in only the most cursory fashion…That minimal reasoning would appear to justify a special election in every racial-gerrymandering case—a result clearly at odds with our demand for careful case-specific analysis.
The Supreme Court seems concerned that trial courts will begin treating special elections as the default remedy for gerrymandering, which might lead to chaos and draw the courts into the middle of politically polarized local battles.
So now the trial court has to reconsider its ruling from May 2016 ordering the state to redraw the maps and hold a new vote. Only here on Planet Earth, there is zero chance that North Carolina will redraw the maps and hold new elections in five months. And the mapfuckers won again simply by running out the clock. As Think Progress put it,
Whether the justices intended it to or not, however, Covington will also send a clear message to lawmakers engaged in gerrymandering. North Carolina’s maps are illegal. The Supreme Court agreed with that conclusion. And yet North Carolina still got to run several elections under those maps.
That’s a pretty substantial incentive for lawmakers to draw more gerrymandered maps in the future.
On the one hand, it is NICETIMES that the Court is unanimously declaring that districts gerrymandered solely based on race will no longer be tolerated. On the other hand, why should North Carolina Republicans ever draw a fair map if they can steal three election cycles before getting caught?
To be honest, your $5F is pretty ambivalent about this ruling herself. In the end, I tend to trust that Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan are protecting the courts from becoming another tool in the partisan trench warfare of American politics. As terrible as it is that these elections were stolen, it would be EVEN WORSE if we didn’t have an independent judiciary to check the executive and legislative branches. Now is not the time for the Court to waste political capital by entering into North Carolina’s bare-knuckles brawl. Now the Court needs to preserve its strength to deal with the onslaught of Trump lunacy that finally landed on its doorstep this week with the Travel Ban case. It’s gonna be a rough three years.
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