Two gerrymandering lawsuits are set to be heard in federal court this summer in Greensboro.
There are two types of gerrymandering, or when district lines are drawn to benefit one group and disenfranchise another. One is racial gerrymandering, which is illegal under the Fifteenth Amendment. The other is partisan gerrymandering, or drawing districts that will favor one political party over another.
This isn’t exactly illegal. Mostly because judges have no way of measuring how gerrymandered a district is. But the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the Campaign Legal Center are leading one of the lawsuits: League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho. The Coalition has an expert studying the case.
“He’s looked at those plans to see how extreme the actual gerrymandering has been in terms of partisan gerrymandering throughout that time period,” said Alesha Brown, lead attorney on the case. “And what we’ve in essence found is that North Carolina is the absolute worst.”
Alesha Brown spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.
Brown said North Carolina is the worst on the scale of the “efficiency gap.” It’s a system that measures the excess votes of what the winning candidate needed in the district, and the wasted votes cast for the losing candidate.
She said the percentage is also calculated by looking at the cracking and packing in the district. Cracking is when lines are drawn to divide a group. Packing is placing a group of people all in one district.
“If I’m voting for a candidate, and that candidate is sure to lose, I’ve wasted my vote, right?” Brown said. “That’s cracking. And the packing situation—if I voted for a candidate in a district where that candidate is sure to win because 86% of the voting age population affiliates with a party with which that candidate is running then that vote is wasted as well.”
The efficiency gap is calculated with a percentage found by taking the difference of wasted votes of each party and dividing it by total votes cast. Brown said the threshold of a district being unconstitutional is somewhere between seven and 12 percent, but that North Carolina’s efficiency gap calculation is higher.
“We found that our efficiency gap under the 2016 congressional plan is at 19% which is a significantly higher number than the many plans that were studied that I mentioned earlier between 1972 and 2016,” she said.
It’s with this math that the coalition is taking up the case in court. Brown said the argument is that the state legislature intended to discriminate against one party in favor of another, and have no justification for doing so. She said therefore, it’s a violation of the equal protection under the law clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
“It’s important for this type of decision to go forward to the supreme court so that we can make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect the fundamental right to vote,” she said.
Brown said either way the case goes, there will be an appeal. The trial for both cases is on June 26.