Two NC legislators mistakenly sign anti-gerrymandering brief

Walter Jones (Jr.) addresses a crowd during the 2015 state conference for Young Americans for Liberty. Photo by Zach Walker.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., removed their names from a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court last week after mistakenly supporting a pledge to end politically-motivated gerrymandering.

Allison Tucker, Jones’ communications director, said the congress person’s name was added to the brief due to a misunderstanding.

The brief now includes signatures from 34 current and former representatives from across the country pledging to support actions to eliminate partisan gerrymandering in the formation of legislative and congressional districts.

“Amici are united in the belief that removing the most extreme forms of partisan manipulation from the legislative redistricting process is consistent with principled and constituent-first representation,” the brief said.

Among the brief's signatories is David Price, D-N.C., who said in a press release that politically-motivated gerrymandering has systematically stifled the democratic process.

“It is time we put an end to a system where politicians have the ability to cherry pick their voters,” the release said. “My home state of North Carolina has been ground-zero for hyper-partisan gerrymandering, and I am proud to add my voice to this effort.”

Ferrel Guillory, a UNC journalism professor who focuses on the relation between politics and the media, said the issue is not that Republicans are drawing districts to maintain their majority — it’s the way they’re doing it.

“Redistricting has to take place because the population is always growing and changing,” he said. “At issue here is the extent to which Republicans have drawn districts in order to remain in the majority.”

Thomas Carsey, a UNC political science professor focusing on political representation, said the controversy surrounding North Carolina district maps could have played a role in the legislators' decisions not to support the brief.

“They could be worried that criticizing politically motivated gerrymandering could be construed as criticizing the Republican legislature that drew the maps,” he said.

Guillory said there are three core issues with the way Republican representatives in North Carolina have drawn district maps. The first is that elections must be competitive for democracy to work, and there are many districts in North Carolina where that is not the case.

“In North Carolina and elsewhere, dozens of congressional and legislative districts are drawn so that one party will win by such a wide margin that the opposition doesn’t even contest the election,” he said. “That’s not an election at all.”

The second issue is that the way districts are drawn affects the outcome of legislation. Guillory said one-party dominance may lead to legislation that may not reflect the wishes of the state as a whole.

The third issue with partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina, according to Guillory, is that a veto-proof majority in the state legislature weakens the governor. When a supermajority can override the governor’s veto, it takes power away from the statewide leader and puts it in the hands of the Republican majority. 

Guillory said the real question now is how the Supreme Court will handle the redrawing of district lines. Federal courts will either send the issue back to the North Carolina legislature, redraw district lines themselves or appoint a special commission to draw legislative districts.

“A special commission would not remove politics," Guillory said. "But it would remove the decision from the hothouse of the legislature."


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