Republicans in North Carolina may have sacrificed Congressmen Mark Walker and George Holding in an attempt to keep some of the fruits of partisan gerrymandering.
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The North Carolina legislature, under time pressure from the State Supreme Court to redraw a map of Congress that the court ruled to be the product of an unconstitutional political gerrymander, today returned a new map to the judges that would make at least two sitting Republican congressmen very vulnerable next year. Currently, the GOP controls the House delegation in this tightly divided battlefield state by a 10-3 margin. The Associated Press has the story:
Republicans have proposed cards that would place GOP representatives Mark Walker of Greensboro and George Holding of Raleigh in districts that clearly favor Democratic candidates. Their two current Republican-leaning districts – a mix of urban, suburban and rural areas – would be consolidated into more Democratic urban counties.
Neither Walker – the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee – nor Holding have yet said whether they will run anyway.
Democrats in the Legislature opposed the card on the grounds that even a (likely) 8-5 card does not adequately reflect the partisan balance of the state, and plaintiffs who successfully challenged the old card have announced that they would also dispute the news. The North Carolina Supreme Court has asked lawmakers to comply with its order ahead of candidate qualification slated for early 2020, December 2, under threat that next year’s March congressional primaries would otherwise be delayed. The same court last month accepted a state legislative map from the same legislature allegedly applying the same principles following an earlier court ruling that their own map violated equal protection provisions and ” free election âof the North Carolina Constitution.
No matter what the Court does about that latest map, this series of developments creates a new hurdle in an already arduous path to regaining the majority of House Republicans, who are suffering from retirements, unpopularity. the President and the historic fact that the House has not changed hands in a presidential election since 1952. In the long run, the action of the Supreme Court of North Carolina (such as a ruling by the Pennyslvania Supreme Court in 2018 declaring that state’s heavily gerrymandered congressional map unconstitutional on similar grounds) could represent a trend, as I noted last month:
The bottom line is that the big victory Republicans thought they had won last summer when SCOTUS refused to do anything against partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina (and Maryland) was pyrrhic. State courts across the country now have two models (this one and Pennsylvania’s in 2018) for using equality protections that frequently appear in state constitutions to end partisan gerrymandering. And precisely because SCOTUS has excluded federal courts from the whole case of dealing with this problem, some aspiring gerrymanderers now face possible constitutional limitations from the state just before the start of the next 10-year redistribution cycle in 2021. .
If Democrats continue to make legislative progress in states next year, Republicans’ desire to use partisan gerrymandering as part of their overall efforts to thwart democracy could become increasingly questionable.