Will Republicans continue to delay redrawing voting maps?

Will Republicans continue to delay redrawing voting maps?
June 15
04:00 2017

When the U.S. Supreme Court last week failed to affirm a lower court’s order that the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly immediately redraw its 2011 redistricting map and hold special elections this year because of racial gerrymandering, it unwittingly gave the GOP the tools to make sure special elections aren’t likely to happen in 2017.

State House and Senate Republican legislative leaders flat out rejected Gov. Roy Cooper’s call for a concurrent 14-day Special Session to immediately redraw the voting maps, saying that it was “unconstitutional” for the Democratic governor to do so without “extraordinary occasions.”

“ [As president of the North Carolina Senate] I ruled his demand for a Special Session unconstitutional,” Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican, said during a 2:18 YouTube video to GOP supporters.

Forest went on to say that the N.C. General Assembly was already in session, and that the “federal court requiring redistricting ordered it to occur during the next session, that is a regular session of the General Assembly. The drafting of legislative districts is not necessary until the 2018 election cycle, which is over a year away [April 2018].”

Lt. Gov. Forest continued, “ For this reason, the governor’s demand for immediate action, does not meet the constitutional mandate of an extraordinary occasion.”

“In short, we have plenty of time to act,” Forest added assuredly.

He continued that “the only reason to order districts redrawn now is to force a special election this year, other than the normal cycle of 2018.”

To do so would violate the N.C. Constitution, Forest said, which says that lawmakers are to serve two-year terms. A special election would force all state lawmakers to cut their terms short to run again this year after many were elected in 2016, this time via the new maps, for an abbreviated term. Then, after being re-elected, they would have to gear up again for the regular 2018 reelection campaign, albeit again by the new maps.

Forest also made clear that neither he, nor any of his fellow Republicans, would tolerate new voting maps drawn by the federal court, and hinted that that’s what Gov. Cooper is really striving for in his call for lawmakers to immediately get back to the drawing board.

“Again, our state Constitution is clear, legislative authority rests solely with the N.C. General Assembly. Nowhere in our Constitution is this duty shared with, or abdicated to the courts.”

“Be reminded…,” Forest concluded, “what the progressive movement cannot attain at the ballot box, they are attempting to attain from the courts.”

House Republicans also voted 71-44 to cancel Gov. Cooper’s special session, calling it a “political stunt.”

To Democrats, those are fighting words, to say the least.

“The Supreme Court has issued its decision. The courts have spoken – unanimously – on this issue,” said Senate Minority Leader Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake).

“We have been operating under unconstitutional legislative maps for the past five years. For Republicans to suggest that this issue is not extraordinary is to show contempt for the U.S. Supreme Court, the district courts and the North Carolina voters.

“Republicans can try to delay justice,” Blue continued, “… but they cannot ignore it.”

Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) went on to say, “Fixing these maps before the legislature adjourns will save the time and taxpayer money that a special session later in the year would cost. There is no reason for delay. North Carolina voters deserve to know what districts they will be voting in next year.”

But beyond not jeopardizing their majorities in both the state House and Senate, why else would legislative Republicans not want to  redraw unconstitutional gerrymandered voting districts right now?

“Delay tactics poll favorably to their base, and has positive impact on their fundraising,” says Rep. Evelyn Terry  (D-Forsyth), who joined with her colleagues of the Democrat-led N.C. Legislative Black Caucus last week to call for Republican leadership to immediately redraw the voting lines.

In its ruling last week, the U.S. Supreme Court directed the federal three-judge panel to decide again when the voting maps should be redrawn, and if special elections should take place, and when.

Last Friday, that judicial panel, promising to act promptly, requested that attorneys for the state, state lawmakers and the N.C. State Board of Elections submit their motions “as expeditiously as possible.”

On Monday, Cooper, flanked by Senate Minority Leader Blue and House Minority Leader Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake), called for special elections to be held before the 2018 legislative session.

“North Carolina shouldn’t hold another session or have another budget voted on by an unconstitutional legislature,” Cooper said. “Maps should be drawn this month and an election held before next year’s legislative session. If the legislature doesn’t do its job soon, the courts should.”

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