North Carolina Special Primary Going Forward After Federal Court Decision

The latest rendition of the North Carolina congressional district boundaries will continue to be used in next week’s primary elections.

That decision came when a three-judge panel on Thursday denied objections filed by attorneys for voters who brought a lawsuit in 2013 challenging the 1st and 12th Districts.

Those two districts were illegally drawn with too much focus put on race when outlining the boundaries, the court ruled in February. That sent the North Carolina General Assembly into a special session to redraw the maps to decide party representatives for the November race for the United States House of Representatives.

The primary race for those candidates was originally going to be held with the other primary races across the state on March 15. After the new maps were drawn, June 7 was selected as the primary date for the Congressional races.

Early voting for next Tuesday’s election is already underway.

Democratic Congressman David Price is running unopposed in the primary in the 4th District, which contains all of Orange County in the new map. On the Republican side, Sue Googe and Teiji Kimball are running for their party’s nomination.

There are also four candidates on the ballot for North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice. The top two finishers among those four candidates will be on the November ballot to decide who will get the seat on the state Supreme Court.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/north-carolina-special-primary-going-forward-after-federal-court-decision

Donald Trump, HB2, And The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations

I want to talk about the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”

We’ve heard that phrase, right? Michael Gerson is the one who coined it, back in 2000 when he was a speechwriter for George W. Bush. Back then, it was an argument about race and education: we’re hurting African-American students by failing to hold them to a high standard, rewarding them for doing the bare minimum. Low expectations means students have no incentive to strive or work hard or be ambitious – so the achievement gap will never close, families will be stuck in poverty, and it’ll be on us for not having been more demanding.

That was the original argument, and it resonated well – especially with Republicans, who pride themselves on being the party of personal responsibility.

But here’s the thing, y’all:

Today, the “soft bigotry of low expectations” is still with us – only it’s not against African-Americans.

It’s against Republicans.

Today, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan met to work out an “agreement” to re-unify the GOP. Now, Donald Trump is a pathological liar, he says he wants to ban all Muslims from entering the country, he’s stirred up hatred of immigrants, he’s threatened to prosecute journalists who criticize him, and he’s actively encouraged his followers to beat up anyone who disagrees. Any one of those things ought to be enough to disqualify him from being president – if we hold our candidates up to high standards. Instead, GOP leaders are willing to let all that slide. Ryan will settle for some tiny concession, they’ll come out saying they’ve had great talks and reached an understanding, and they’ll shake hands and smile and move on. (Even as I’m writing this, Ryan and Trump just released a statement to exactly that effect.)

Meanwhile, Trump is creating a new controversy by refusing to release his tax returns. “There’s nothing to learn from them,” he says. Trump’s opponents say he’s lying about his finances, he’s not really worth ten billion dollars, he’s involved in shady dealings. But there’s no proof without the tax returns, so Trump says it must be a non-issue.

That’s how low the bar is for Donald Trump. We can’t prove he’s committed dozens of felonies; therefore he’s qualified to lead the free world. He has no respect for the Constitution, but that’s okay because he gives the GOP a slightly better chance of winning in November.

The soft bigotry of low expectations.

And it’s not just Trump. In North Carolina, we’re all about to go to court over the “bathroom” section of House Bill 2. What, exactly, are Republicans arguing? They’re arguing that federal law bans discrimination on the basis of sex, but it doesn’t overtly ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity, so a law that discriminates on that basis is technically acceptable.

Mind you, this is not the GOP’s fallback position – this is their position. Pat McCrory is making this argument loudly and proudly. “House Bill 2 is technically not directly against the law, so therefore it must be okay.” Forget whether it actually protects public safety. (McCrory hasn’t even tried to make that argument for weeks, in case you haven’t noticed.) As long as it manages to skate riiight up to the line of breaking federal law without actually technically crossing it, House Bill 2 must be perfectly fine.

The soft bigotry of low expectations.

And it’s not even just House Bill 2. This year alone, we’ve had legal fights over Congressional district lines, state legislative district lines, voter ID, teacher tenure, and judicial elections. Sooner or later, “magistrate recusal” is heading to the courts as well. And in every single one of those cases, it’s the same argument from the GOP: “Well, technically it’s not quite a violation of federal law, so therefore it must be okay.”

You know what? That’s not good enough.

It’s time we raised the bar.

Rather than letting the NCGA get away with passing bill after bill that’s arguably just slightly not quite unconstitutional, let’s demand our lawmakers pass bills that don’t create a legal crisis at all.

Rather than having to go to court and nitpick over whether our district lines constitute racial gerrymandering or just partisan gerrymandering, let’s just draw our district lines without any gerrymandering whatsoever.

Rather than making Pat McCrory go on TV and argue that “gender” discrimination technically isn’t the same thing as “sex” discrimination, let’s just have a law that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender or sex.

Rather than making teachers sue the state to secure their contractually guaranteed benefits, let’s just fulfill the frigging contract.

Rather than jumping through legal hoops to argue that we’re not technically violating the Voting Rights Act when we impose new voting restrictions, let’s just…not impose new voting restrictions.

And rather than selling your soul and supporting a presidential candidate who stirs up hatred, panders to racists, trashes the Constitution, and generally acts like an eight-year-old playground bully, let’s actually demand our candidates meet a higher standard than the lowest possible bar. Ditch Trump if you need to. Vote for Gary Johnson instead. Democrats, if your candidate doesn’t hold up to high standards either, same story. Vote Johnson. Vote Stein. Write in somebody good.

Our political leaders ought to be better than this. Our candidates ought to be better than this. We ought to be better than this.

Otherwise, we’re subjecting ourselves, our state, and our country to the soft bigotry of low expectations. And we’re going to hate ourselves for it.

To hell with that. There’s too much hate already.

 

Postscript: Michael Gerson, the speechwriter who originally coined the phrase “soft bigotry of low expectations,” is now a writer for the Washington Post – and he’s remained consistent. He’s been a vocal opponent of Donald Trump’s for a long time now, most recently in this column.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/donald-trump-hb2-and-the-soft-bigotry-of-low-expectations

Redistricting Reform: State…And Local

Last week – following the most recent craziness in the General Assembly – I posted a long piece on Chapelboro calling for redistricting reform at the state level.

(Upshot: rather than letting state legislators draw our legislative district lines every 10 years, we should take the power out of their hands and give it to an independent, nonpartisan commission. State legislators have a personal and partisan interest in drawing the lines to favor themselves and their party – so let’s put the power in the hands of people who don’t have a personal interest, so they can focus on what’s best for North Carolinians as a whole.)

The state legislature hasn’t acted, naturally – doing so would require them to give up some of their own power, and that’s a hard thing for anyone to do – but there is definitely widespread support for redistricting reform across party lines. Democrats, Republicans, and independents all favor it by wide margins.

It’s something we ought to do.

But while we’re on the subject…

How about redistricting reform at the local level too?

We’ve got an election this year for four open seats on the Orange County Board of Commissioners…and if you don’t know, we’ve got a pretty complicated system for electing them.

Time was, all of the seats on the Board were at-large seats, meaning everyone in the county voted for every seat. (This is still how we do it for our town boards.)

But that was unfair to residents of northern Orange County: because most of Orange County’s population was concentrated in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, the entire board invariably wound up being comprised of Chapel Hill/Carrboro folks who represented Chapel Hill/Carrboro interests and weren’t as concerned with rural issues. Agriculture? Solid waste? Rural bus routes? Residents in northern Orange didn’t have much of a voice.

So last decade, the county changed its election system. Orange County divided itself into two districts, split along roughly the same line as the county’s two school districts: Chapel Hill and Carrboro in District 1, the rest of the county in District 2. Now we have seven county commissioners: two of them are still at-large, elected by everybody, but there are three commissioners who specifically represent District 1 and two who specifically represent District 2.

Sort of.

Thing is, the county didn’t go all the way when it split into districts. Residents of District 1 and 2 get to choose their own party nominees in the primary election – but in the November general election, it’s still all at-large. Everybody votes in all seven races, regardless of where in the county they live.

Why is this?

It’s better today than it was before: once upon a time the entire board was Chapel Hill/Carrboro, and today folks in northern Orange do have two spots on the board reserved for them. It’s a step in the right direction. (And this year it doesn’t really matter: since all the candidates are Democrats, all of this year’s races are going to be decided in the primary anyway.)

But should Orange County go all the way? Let District 1 and District 2 elect their own representatives in the primary and the general election? There’s something to be said for the at-large system – our elected officials really ought to be considering the needs and interests of everyone in the county, no matter what – but it’s undeniably true that certain issues affect northern and southern Orange County differently, and that will be the case no matter how we elect our representatives. Should both districts have their own independent say?

I spoke with Orange County conservative Ashley DeSena this week, and both of us agreed on the need for state and local reform. Listen to our conversation.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/redistricting-reform-state-and-local

New Congressional Maps Will Be Argued Before Federal Court

The redistricting saga in North Carolina may not be over, even after new Congressional maps were adopted and a new primary date was set last week.

The North Carolina NAACP is not impressed with the newly configured Congressional districts churned out by the North Carolina General Assembly during the middle of last week.

North Carolina NAACP President Dr. William Barber said that the chaos surrounding the new Congressional primary set for June began with the district maps drawn in 2011.

“It is important for us to note that this entire problem started when extremists, under the leadership of [State Senate President] Phil Berger and [then-House Speaker and now U.S. Senator] Thom Tillis, passed the worst unconstitutional redistricting plans that we had seen in North Carolina since the 19th century,” Barber said at a news conference on Monday.

Barber referred to the 2011 map as “apartheid redistricting.”

“You should have never seen this level of stacking and packing and bleaching of black and minority voters for political advantage,” Barber said.

After a federal court ruled that two of North Carolina’s Congressional districts were unconstitutional and mandated lawmakers redraw the districts, state leaders asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay. That request was denied. Barber said that when the NAACP is praising a court led by John Roberts, that speaks to the extent of the issues with the previous maps.

“That the Roberts court that overturned the Voting Rights Act Section 4 – that court, that we have deep issues with – would in our case say to our state Supreme Court, ‘You didn’t ask the right questions about race,’” Barber said.

So now NAACP attorney Irv Joyner says that the group is asking the federal court to quickly hear arguments regarding the legality of the new Congressional renderings and issue a ruling before filing opens in mid-March for the newly-set Congressional primary date, June 7.

U.S. District Judge William Osteen served on the three-judge panel that struck down the 1st and 12th Congressional districts, and he has now ordered that Joyner and the plaintiffs file objections to the new maps and the primary schedule by Monday, February 29. The state would then have until the following Monday, March 7, to respond. And the plaintiffs would have a rebuttal window through March 9.

Joyner said at the Monday press conference that they would request the federal panel draw their own district map. Osteen instead directed the attorneys to file the objections, according to the Associated Press.

North Carolinians will vote in a March 15 primary for races including President, Governor, U.S. Senate and local elections.

If the new maps and Congressional primary date go unaltered, it would be held in early June.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/new-congressional-maps-will-be-argued-before-federal-court

“End Gerrymandering Now”

See what happens? The General Assembly comes back in session for one week and now we’ve got a Congressman living in somebody else’s district, two different dates for two different primaries, a whole new filing period for an election cycle that began months ago, and a new set of Congressional district lines that resolves almost none of the problems that started this whole fiasco in the first place.

Isn’t it time for North Carolina to end gerrymandering forever?

In case you haven’t been following the saga – or in case all the rapid developments have left you utterly confused – here’s where we are today.

  • Earlier this month, a three-judge panel ruled that state lawmakers had violated the U.S. Constitution when they redrew North Carolina’s Congressional district lines in 2011. Trying to maximize the number of GOP-controlled districts, lawmakers “packed” black voters together into two districts, the 1st and the 12th. That’s a violation of the 15th Amendment, which bans racial discrimination.
  • The judges ordered lawmakers to redraw the district lines before the next election – namely, the March 15 primary. Because the primary was barely a month away, the judges gave lawmakers a two-week deadline: the districts had to be redrawn by February 19.
  • Lawmakers asked the judges for a stay – arguing, in essence, that it would be better to have an unconstitutional election than to go through the chaos of a last-second redraw. (Especially since some voters have already mailed in their absentee ballots.) But the judges said no: unconstitutional elections are unconstitutional elections, and they can’t be allowed to proceed, chaos or no chaos.
  • Lawmakers appealed to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for a stay. Roberts waited more than a week to respond, but on Friday he denied the appeal. (The full Supreme Court could still decide to hear the case – though that’s not likely – but either way, Roberts’ denial means the lower court ruling must be followed for now.)
  • Facing a rapidly approaching deadline, Governor Pat McCrory called the General Assembly back into session this week for a last-second redraw. After two days of hearings, lawmakers unveiled a new map on Thursday – drawn, this time, by officials who were purposely ignoring racial statistics – and officially approved it on Friday.
  • But the new map does, indeed, create chaos. The 12th district, which used to snake down I-85 from Greensboro to Charlotte, is now just a block of Mecklenburg County, with an entirely different set of voters. Republican Congressman George Holding represents the 13th district, but his home got reassigned to David Price’s district, the heavily Democratic 4th. (Technically Holding could still run in the 13th district – you don’t have to live in the district you represent – but the redrawn 13th is so far away from his home that it actually makes more sense for him to run in the 2nd district, which would pit him in a primary against fellow Republican Renee Ellmers.) Numerous other candidates now no longer live in the districts they’ve been campaigning in – and nearly all the candidates are upset because they’ve wasted time and money trying to win over voters who’ve just been abruptly moved to some other district.
  • And although officials did meet the court’s deadline, lawmakers realized there’s not enough time to print new ballots, re-educate residents, and take care of absentee voters in time for a March 15 primary – so the GA also passed a bill creating a second primary on June 7, just for the U.S. Congressional races. (Congressional candidates will have to re-file for office, beginning on March 16.)
  • Oh, and by the way, all the old Congressional races are still going to be on the March 15 ballot too – just in case the Supreme Court steps in and overturns the lower court between March and June. So have fun with that.

 

So, to sum up: you now have two primaries to vote in, not just one. There’s a good chance you just got moved to a new district, for the second time in five years. Candidates who’ve already spent thousands of dollars running for office now have to go back to square one and start again. One incumbent who represents District A now lives in District B and is planning to run in District C. Naturally lawmakers blamed the judges for all this, but the court wouldn’t have stepped in at all if the GA hadn’t drawn the map in such a cockamamie way in the first place.

Oh, and there’s almost certainly going to be another lawsuit challenging this map too, so we may have to do this all over again in two years.

Here’s what the old map looked like. Check out that ridiculous 12th district! You could throw a bowling ball in district 8 and it would land in district 5.

NC Congressional District Maps

Here’s the new map, looking better with a revised 12th…but still a crazy-shaped 4th, and a 13th that’s magically leaped from east of Raleigh to west of Greensboro. There are two sitting members of Congress who now live in the 13th, and neither one of them is the guy who actually represents that district.

Proposed Congressional District Map.

Proposed Congressional District Map.

 

Still with me?

Ready for the best part?

For all the scurrying and last-second maneuvering this week, lawmakers did absolutely nothing to fix the one problem that caused all this chaos in the first place.

In fact they explicitly went out of their way to avoid doing so.

On Friday, while details were still being finalized, I spoke with NC Central School of Law professor (and Carrboro Mayor) Lydia Lavelle. Here’s our conversation.

 

The issue that started this whole mess is partisan gerrymandering. Why, in 2011, did the General Assembly vote to approve a plan that packed black voters into two districts? Because the GA was controlled by Republicans, and they were trying to create as many Republican-majority districts as possible. This is not speculation: we know this is true because they said it was true. (And Democrats did the same thing when they controlled the GA. We’ve been through this exact same fiasco three decades in a row.)

The 15th Amendment bans racial gerrymandering, but the Constitution doesn’t explicitly forbid states from privileging one party over another – so naturally, just about every state does it. If Party A controls the state legislature, lawmakers draw the district lines to “pack” Party B’s voters together into as few districts as possible. They’re really good at it, too. When Republicans got to redraw North Carolina’s lines after the 2010 census, they packed Democrats together so effectively that in 2012, the GOP won nine of the state’s 13 Congressional seats even though Democrats got more votes overall.

Partisan gerrymandering makes an absolute mockery of democracy. Everybody knows it and everybody freely admits it. But as long as there’s no law against it – and as long as state lawmakers are in charge of drawing their own district lines – they have every incentive to keep doing it, in order to keep themselves and their party in power.

And because partisan lines are often racial lines too – blacks tend to vote Democratic, whites tend to vote Republican – then every time the GOP tries to pack Democrats into one or two districts, they’re going to end up packing black voters into one or two districts as well. Which means more lawsuits, more uncertainty, and more chaos. Every. Single. Time.

(This is true no matter which party controls the process, by the way. Democrats ran the show when the 2000 census came in, and the resulting legal fight didn’t wrap up until 2009.)

Did the GOP learn its lesson? Good Lord, of course not. This week, when the GA asked lawmakers to draw a new map, they also directed those lawmakers to make sure to preserve that 10-3 Republican majority. (Seriously, they took a vote on it and everything.) One Republican this week said he was only supporting a 10-3 GOP majority because there didn’t seem to be a way to make it 11-2. (Seriously, he said that in public.)

This is completely bonkers.

Is there a way to fix it?

Yes, as it turns out. It’s actually really easy: partisan gerrymandering exists because state lawmakers have the power to draw their own district lines – so the way to fix the problem is simply to give that power to somebody else.

There is a proposal on the table to create an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission. Every ten years, after each new census, this commission would be in charge of redrawing the boundaries for North Carolina’s State House, State Senate, and U.S. House districts.

No partisan bias. No inadvertent racial discrimination.

Fourteen other states already do it this way.

In North Carolina, the push for independent redistricting is being led by the NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. Earlier this week, I spoke with the Coalition’s director, Jane Pinsky.

 

Do North Carolinians support this plan?

Yes, they do. A survey from Public Policy Polling, just released this week, found that 59 percent of North Carolina voters support an independent redistricting commission – compared with only 9 percent who oppose it. Voters across the political spectrum are all in favor: 65 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of independents, and 54 percent of Republicans all approve this plan. (Only 6 percent of Democrats, 12 percent of independents, and 11 percent of Republicans are opposed.)

Just how unpopular is partisan redistricting? Last year, PPP found that more North Carolinians actually approve of man-eating sharks than the current redistricting system.

Okay, so how about state legislators? Do they support this plan?

Yes they do too, as it turns out. Even though it would mean they’d have to give up power, there’s actually fairly strong support for independent redistricting in the General Assembly, among Democrats and Republicans alike. Naturally support for reform is always greater among the minority party – Democrats tend to be more in favor of it today, while Republicans were more supportive back when the Dems were in control. But high-ranking Republicans, including Skip Stam, joined high-ranking Democrats together on the podium last year at a much-ballyhooed press conference to renew the push for redistricting reform – and in 2011 the State House actually approved a reform bill.

How about think tanks? Liberal? Conservative?

Yep, they all support it too. That press conference last year had people together from NC Policy Watch (liberal), the Pope Foundation (conservative) and the John Locke Foundation (conservative/libertarian). All in favor.

So why don’t we have an independent redistricting commission?

This guy:

Photo courtesy of the North Carolina General Assembly

Photo courtesy of the North Carolina General Assembly

This is State Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. He’s in charge of deciding which bills get brought up for a vote on the Senate floor – and he has made it clear that he has no intention of letting the Senate vote on this.

(And after this week? He said he hasn’t changed his mind. But you knew that already.)

So after all that, here’s where we stand: total electoral chaos in North Carolina that’s only just now beginning to subside…two primaries scheduled in the next four months…a completely redrawn Congressional map for the second time this decade…candidates scrambling to file to run in all new districts…the looming prospect of another round of lawsuits…and an easy solution that North Carolinians overwhelmingly want, which lawmakers flatly refuse to consider.

It’s good to see, when it comes to legislative incompetence, Raleigh is still managing to keep pace with Washington.

If you want to know more about the fight to end gerrymandering (partisan, racial, or otherwise) and enact real redistricting reform, visit EndGerrymanderingNow.org.

http://chapelboro.com/news/end-gerrymandering-now

NC General Assembly Adopts New Congressional Maps

***UPDATE: The U.S. Supreme Court has denied the request to stay the federal court’s ruling regarding the new Congressional maps.***

North Carolina voters will likely head to the polls three times in 2016.

The March 15 primary is quickly approaching and North Carolina lawmakers have been in session this week redrawing Congressional maps after a federal court ruled the 2011 renderings were unconstitutional.

The state House and Senate have now approved new Congressional districts, which they say comply with the law. Opponents of the new districts say that the new drawings are still illegal because they pack black voters into certain districts.

Leaders in the North Carolina legislature have asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of the federal court mandate, but the nation’s high court has yet to respond.

Friday was the deadline issued by the federal court for new districts to be approved.

Since district maps do not have to be approved by Governor Pat McCrory, the new renderings became law upon the approval from both the House and the Senate.

The new districts have altered the shape and range of nearly all of North Carolina’s 13 districts, leaving those running for the U.S. House of Representatives scrambling.

The March 15 primary will be held and voters will cast their ballots in the party races for President, Senate, Governor and local elections.

Voters will be asked to go back to the polls in the Congressional primary on June 7, if a stay is not granted.

If a stay is not issued by the March 15 primary, a second filing period will be opened to file for the U.S. House of Representatives. If the U.S. Supreme Court issues a stay, all races will be held during the March 15 primary.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/nc-general-assembly-adopts-new-maps

NC Lawmakers Ask For Stay in Redistricting Ruling

***UPDATE: The three-judge panel rejected the request to stay the decision that two districts are unconstitutional. That ruling was then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.***

Officials with the State of North Carolina filed an emergency petition on Monday to stay a decision from a panel of three federal judges that ruled two of North Carolina’s congressional districts were unconstitutional.

The ruling came down late Friday and ordered lawmakers to redraw the 1st and 12th district by February 19.

State Senator Bob Rucho and Representative David Lewis, two architects of the latest districts, issued a joint statement Monday saying:

“We trust the federal trial court was not aware an election was already underway and surely did not intend to throw our state into chaos by nullifying ballots that have already been sent out and votes that have already been cast. We hope the court will realize the serious and far-reaching ramifications of its unprecedented, eleventh-hour action and immediately issue a stay.”

The State Supreme Court upheld the maps in late December.

North Carolina voting maps have been a heated topic of debate for years as lawmakers of the controlling party have been legally allowed to draw maps that favor the reelection of members of their party.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers presented a bill in 2015 that would have created an independent redistricting commission, as has been done in other states, but the bill moved nowhere.

Jane Pinsky is the director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform. She spoke with WCHL’s Blake Hodge about the decision and what it means for North Carolina voters going forward.

 

Pinsky says residents can sign a petition against gerrymandering or call her office at (919) 833-0092 for more information.

http://chapelboro.com/featured/nc-lawmakers-ask-for-stay-in-redistricting-ruling

PPP: Sharks Bad, But Partisan Redistricting Worse

The numbers are in: more North Carolinians approve of sharks than oppose redistricting reform or background checks for gun purchases.

That’s the result of the latest state survey from Public Policy Polling. PPP pollsters asked about sharks in the wake of this summer’s spike in shark attacks. Most North Carolinians don’t have an opinion about sharks one way or another, but 15 percent say they see them favorably (versus 22 percent who don’t like them).

Compare that to our views on universal background checks for gun purchases: 86 percent of NC voters say they support them, against only 10 percent who are opposed.

North Carolinians are almost equally sold on the proposal to put a nonpartisan committee in charge of redrawing legislative district lines. More voters are undecided on this one, but those who have made up their minds are almost all in favor of it: 55 percent support nonpartisan redistricting, while only 10 percent, again, are opposed.

(According to the survey, both nonpartisan redistricting and background checks enjoy widespread support across party lines. In fact, Republican voters are less likely to oppose nonpartisan redistricting than Democrats are – even though nonpartisan redistricting would presumably benefit Democrats at a time when the GOP controls the legislature.)

PPP director Tom Jensen spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.

 

Other results from the PPP survey:

Republicans are evenly split, but in general, most North Carolinans (by a 54-28 margin) say that states should go along with Supreme Court decisions, like them or not (rather than resist, as some state and local officials are trying to do with same-sex marriage).

North Carolinians are more split on the Confederate flag: 38 percent support continuing to fly it; 48 percent are opposed.

The General Assembly remains unpopular, with only 20 percent approving – but voters disapprove of Democratic legislators just as much as Republicans. Democrats lead the generic ballot, 46-42, but that’s a smaller lead than they held at this point two years ago – and not nearly big enough to have any hope of retaking control of the GA.

And back to sharks: notwithstanding the scary headlines, the vast majority (82%) of North Carolinians who typically travel to the beach say the recent wave of shark attacks will have no impact on their travel plans. (Interestingly, there is a partisan divide here: 20 percent of Democrats say they’re less likely to go into the water, versus only 9 percent of Republicans. PPP director Tom Jensen says he has no idea why that is.)

Full details at PublicPolicyPolling.com.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/ppp-sharks-bad-but-partisan-redistricting-worse

Supreme Court Orders Review of North Carolina Redistricting

The Supreme Court has thrown out a North Carolina court ruling that upheld Republican-drawn electoral districts for state and congressional lawmakers.

The justices on Monday ordered the state Supreme Court to consider anew whether the North Carolina legislature relied too heavily on race when it redrew voting districts following the 2010 census.

The high court issued a similar ruling last month involving a complaint from black Alabama Democrats that the Republican-dominated legislature illegally packed black voters into too few voting districts.

In Alabama, the justices said a lower court used the wrong test when it upheld legislative districts and determined that race was not the primary motivating factor in drawing boundary lines.

The Supreme Court said judges in North Carolina must revisit their ruling in light of the Alabama decision.

http://chapelboro.com/news/national/supreme-court-orders-review-of-north-carolina-redistricting

Lawmakers Set to Introduce Bipartisan Redistricting Reform

A plan for redistricting in North Carolina is once again being put forward by state lawmakers.

A bipartisan group of legislators, from the House and Senate, held a press conference at noon on Tuesday. The purpose was to put forward a proposal to change how voting maps are drawn in the Tar Heel state.

The debate over redistricting in North Carolina has raged on for more than a century. For years Democrats controlled the state legislature, and they drew maps that were favorable to the election of more Democrats. And that was deemed legal by the court system.

During that time, Republicans, and some Democrats, repeatedly called for lawmakers to conceive of a more fair system for how the maps are drawn. Now that Republicans are in control of the state House and Senate, the roles have reversed.

But long-time Republican House Representative Skip Stam says he will introduce a bill that calls for an independent commission to draw the voting maps in the state.

“The idea is that, in constructing districts, the people with the most at stake,” he says, “are probably ones who shouldn’t be doing the details.”

Stam’s proposal would be enacted before the next maps are drawn in 2021.

Stam says an opportunity has presented itself that may be the best chance for the bill to actually pass into law, because there is no pending litigation regarding the current maps.

Republican Representative Charlie Jeter says he and Democratic Senator Jeff Jackson will also be introducing a bill concerning redistricting.

“Our bill won’t go into effect until after the 2030 election cycle, in large part because it grandfathers everyone out,” he says. “To some degree, I think this is about getting the bill passed.”

Democratic Representative Grier Martin says his district, because it is heavily Democratic, is a prime example of what is causing some voters to stay home from the polls.

Martin adds passing a bipartisan redistricting bill would be a big step toward restoring North Carolinians faith in the state government.

Republican Representative John Hardister echoes the sentiment of many conservative leaders at the press conference, saying gerrymandering districts is bad policy – regardless of which party benefits.

“Many Republicans, including myself, advocated for redistricting reform when Democrats were in the majority,” he says. “It was the right thing to do then, and it’s still the right thing to do today.”

John Hood, with the conservative Pope Foundation, says the policy should move forward because it benefits the residents of North Carolina.

“It’s important for all of us in North Carolina to get the policy right,” he says. “I’m sure that redistricting reformers would welcome additional alternatives; as long as they were consistent with the principal that neutral rules should be our tactic, and competitive elections should be our end.”

Voters were the topic of conversation as well for Chris Fitzsimon of the progressive organization NC Policy Watch.

“This is not all the complicated,” he says. “The idea is to create a system where voters choose their politicians, instead of the other way around.”

Even with the bipartisan backing of this bill, it is not set in stone that it will move forward. Republican Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger has previously said he would not consider the legislation while litigation was ongoing.

Mitch Kokai is the Director of Communication for the conservative John Locke Foundation, and he says – even though the litigation has reached a conclusion – there is no guarantee Senator Berger will bring the legislation before the Senate, regardless of what the House does.

“[Berger] hasn’t come out and said ‘heck no, we’re never going to do it,’” Kokai says. “But he also hasn’t come out and said ‘oh yes, we’re going to go along with this now.’”

Ellie Kinnaird represented Orange and Chatham Counties in the North Carolina Senate, as a Democrat, from 1997 – 2013, and she recalls trying to pass a redistricting campaign when her fellow Democrats were in control of the House and Senate.

“I introduced a bill, under the Democrats, for an independent redistricting campaign,” she says. “They thought they were going to be in power forever, why would they do it? I introduced it under the Republicans, and the same thing happened.

“So, I’m very encouraged that the House, last term, actually did pass an independent redistricting bill. But I’m afraid that Mr. Berger will never relent in the Senate. He will not let that go through.”

Kinnaird adds, as long as large donors are allowed to bring about campaigns similar to what North Carolinians saw with the US Senate race between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan, she is not expecting anything to change.

“The money is going to be crucial,” she says. “As the money pours in, it just solidifies the system.

“I don’t see any hope for the near future for North Carolina. I think that, frankly, it’s going to take 49 states enacting it before we enact it.”

The next North Carolina voting maps will be drawn in 2021, following the 2020 census. Whether they will be drawn with a partisan pen or through the eyes of an independent committee remains to be seen.

WCHL has requested a statement from Senator Phil Berger following the press conference but have not received a response at this time.

http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/lawmakers-set-introduce-bipartisan-redistricting-reform