POLITICS

Top Republican Says His State Is A Model For Redistricting. It's One Of The Worst Gerrymandered Places In The Country.

Federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have blocked North Carolina's congressional and legislative district maps.

One of the most powerful Republicans in North Carolina defended his state’s redistricting process, which federal courts have repeatedly rebuked, saying it was a “model” other states could follow.

The comments from North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore come just a week after a panel of three federal judges struck down the state’s congressional map for egregiously benefitting Republicans. That map was intended to be a fix to an earlier one, drawn in 2011, where the U.S. Supreme Court agreed two districts amounted to unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.

The opinion was unequivocal and scathing at parts, with the judges noting lawmakers didn’t even try to advance a “democratic, constitutional, or public interest.” The purpose of the map, the judges wrote, was to advance the GOP’s electoral interests.

Republican lawmakers, who drew the maps, are appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. In an interview with WFAE, Moore was defiant, saying the maps were constitutional and well drawn.

“Frankly, it’s a model other states could follow,” Moore told local NPR station WFAE, speaking about North Carolina’s redistricting process. “We were running previously under districts that were approved in 2011 that had been pre-cleared by the Obama Justice Department at the time. And then roughly last year, the court applies this new standard now to strike them down. We then drew the districts and this new map we have. This new map splits fewer counties, fewer precincts and is more compact than in any congressional districts in any recent or modern history of the state.”

According to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, North Carolina’s congressional map is one of the most severely gerrymandered for partisan bias in the country. The analysis estimates the state’s map is responsible for an additional two or three Republican seats in Congress.

“Sure, North Carolina’s Republican leaders have created a model – a model for how to manipulate elections. They have made a mockery of American democracy,” said Kathay Feng, the national redistricting director at Common Cause, which was one of the plaintiffs in the suit challenging the partisanship of the Congressional map. “North Carolinians expect and deserve elections where their votes matter.”

Republicans in North Carolina have a super majority in the state’s legislature, and the state’s congressional map gives the GOP a 10 to three advantage in its congressional delegation. When Republicans were redrawing the maps in 2016, Rep. David Lewis, the Republican in charge of the redistricting committee, said in a meeting he wanted to draw the maps that way because he didn’t think it was possible to draw a map with “11 Republicans and two Democrats.”

Separately from the issue of the congressional map, the Supreme Court last year upheld a ruling from a three-judge panel striking down 28 of North Carolina’s state legislative districts as unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. After giving Republicans a chance to draw new constitutional districts, the panel of judges appointed a special master to assist in drawing the maps for the new districts. 

Last year, Republicans also considered new maps for state courts that would have required many African-American and Democratic judges to run against one another. Critics say the plan is part of a brazen effort to get more Republicans on the bench.

“If a state wants to rack up millions of dollars in attorneys’ fees (paid to both defense attorneys and victorious plaintiffs’ attorneys) and get unanimously rebuked by the United States Supreme Court, sure. North Carolina is a great model if those are the goals,” said Allison Riggs, a senior attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a group that has repeatedly sued the state over its redistricting plans.

“The state continues to manipulate and operate in secrecy when it comes to redistricting. They’ve lost so many cases now that if I hadn’t litigated almost all of them, I’d have a hard time keeping track,” she added.

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