Gerrymander? I hardly know her.
On Nov. 7, North Carolina voters went to the polls for the Chapel Hill and Carrboro municipal elections. While this year's voter turnout was the highest it has been for 10 years in Chapel Hill, next year’s elections may look different.
In April, North Carolina’s Supreme Court ruled that it had no power to decide on partisan gerrymandering. The majority-GOP bench cleared the way for a similarly Republican legislature to draw up a new U.S. House map; one that is projected to swap the current 7-7 split between the two parties with one which would favor Republicans; giving them 11 seats to a Democratic four. This is not North Carolina’s first encounter with gerrymandering.
After the 1990 census, the North Carolina General Assembly redrew its congressional districts and created a second majority-Black district in the state. This was challenged and in 1993, the landmark Shaw v. Reno case was taken up by the Supreme Court, which ruled against gerrymandering on the basis of race. This ruling has stood since then, despite a possible nullification earlier this year.
In that recent decision, the Supreme Court upheld the protection, ruling that the Voting Rights Act also insured protections against racial gerrymandering. However, this ruling seems to be disregarded in North Carolina. The General Assembly continues to do as it pleases with the state supreme court in tow.
This blatant abuse of power and authority has reared its ugly head, notably with the drawing out of Rep. Jeff Jackson in the most recent congressional maps, now situated in a heavily Republican district. Jackson announced his intention to run for North Carolina Attorney General, and called out the hypocrisy of the General Assembly's actions, insisting that he would fight against corruption once he gains the title of attorney general.
Rep. Julie von Haefen, a Democrat from Wake County, stated how these new gerrymandered district lines will compromise the true representation of voter interest.
“Representative government depends on stable and fair districts that empower voters to have their voices heard," von Haefen said. "This is how Republicans disenfranchise voters. I am saddened that North Carolina has failed to learn from decades of back-and-forth gerrymandering and is once again in the national spotlight for egregious maps.”
Gerrymandering is not isolated to one party. Last year in Maryland, a state judge got rid of a map drawn by the Democrats of that state, and last February, the North Carolina Supreme Court got rid of a map drawn by Republicans. Gerrymandering, regardless of the party, is harmful to democracy and the will of voters in the impacted state.