“GerryMander’s got to go! GerryMander’s got to go!” So went the raucous chant from the 500-person assemblage at the Climate Strike Charlotte on September 20, 2019. With puppet GerryMander on my right arm, he and I had just finished a spirited “conversation”, sparing over the Climate Strike, its goals, its organizers, the promise of American democracy. (See the short debate here.)
GerryMander is an arrogant little runt, and his retort was near sacrilege. Narrow-minded, mean … and unfortunately focused on enabling political parties to rig elections. Fully in character, he openly prided himself on the results of the recent “special” U.S. Congressional election in N.C. District 9.
It was a “special election” because the November 2018 results were thrown out when the winning candidate was exposed for employing a contractor who cheated and connived absentee ballots tallies. A new election was called, and – no surprise – the candidate representing the party with the “safe seat” took home the laurels. The election was held at an unconventional time which dampened the turnout, but the race was tight until the very end. The proverbial bottom line was that the GerryMander-rigged maps performed as engineered, and Gerry gloated over another crushing defeat for authentic democracy. More proof that we can have democracy or gerrymandering, but we can’t have both!
In the continuing saga of the Common Cause v. Lewis partisan gerrymandering lawsuit, the judges ordered maps for the NC Senate and House redrawn. Time was short – two weeks. The General Assembly completed and delivered the maps to the court on time – September 17, 2019 …
… but the process wasn’t without bumps. Common Cause filed a brief with the court citing the new voting maps were not drawn in full public view or without consideration of partisan data, nor were they free from partisan gerrymandering. Additionally, House incumbents were permitted to engage in redrawing their own districts, often with partisan intent. In some cases, incumbents were caught on microphones admitting that they were just trying to recreate their old districts.
The brief asks the court to have the maps redrawn free of illegal partisan gerrymandering. Legislative defendants had until October 4 to file a response. So now we wait …
… while the beat goes on. Even when ordered by a court of law, closely watched by NC citizens, and warned of the consequences of cheating, elected legislators couldn’t help themselves from finagling the task with their collective thumbs on the scales.
It’s far past time to enact a citizen-led method of fair redistricting, one that political parties cannot rig.
So in spite of what we hope will be fair and legal maps in 2020, gerrymandering – rigging elections by political parties – remains the “law of the land” in North Carolina – unless we pressure this legislature into replacing gerrymandering with a citizen-led redistricting process. If you value your besieged democracy, stand up and speak out – now! The next opportunity doesn’t come around until 2029!
The most crucial weapon available is your voice and persistence. If you care about the survival of our imperiled democracy, please call and email these 4 individuals: Senator Phil Berger (919-733-5708; Phil.Berger@ncleg.net); Senator Ralph Hise (919-733-3460; Ralph.Hise@ncleg.net); Representative Tim Moore (919-733-3451; Tim.Moore@ncleg.net); and Representative David Lewis (919-715-3015; David.Lewis@ncleg.net)
Demand a permanent end to election rigging. This is our state and our country! Not the private purview of political parties!