High Court ruling applauded

Rep. Alma Adams and Rev. William Barber

High Court ruling applauded
May 24
00:00 2017


Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that North Carolina’s 2011 congressional redistricting maps for the 1st and 12th Districts were unconstitutional because more black voters from surrounding districts were added unnecessarily, does this hint that an upcoming High Court ruling on the state’s 2011 legislative maps is most likely to be seen the same way?

“Since 2010, North Carolina has been governed by an illegally constituted General Assembly,” says Irving Joyner, chair of the N.C. NAACP Legal Redress Committee, and law professor at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law.

“In its decision, the Supreme Court recognized that this ‘right-wing’ and power-driven legislature had manipulated political districts in order to erode the impact that African-American voters could have on the use of political power in this state,” Joyner continued. “In these redistricting plans, race was used to ‘stack and pack’ African-Americans into a few political districts and to reduce the ability of racial minorities to impact elections in majority white populated districts.”

In short, the race-based formula used to illegally configure the 1st and 12th Congressional Districts, was used to draw the 2011 legislative districts as well, Joyner says.

“Despite this decision, we can expect the legislative leaders to concoct some other race-based districting design instead of sitting down to draw political districts which are fair and non-political,” Professor Joyner added.

And when will the 2011 congressional maps be redrawn by the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly? Democrats and civil rights activists are certainly hopeful in time for the 2018 elections.

The Supreme Court’s May 15 decision not to overturn a lower court’s July 2016 decision striking down North Carolina’s controversial 2013 voter ID law, certainly put smiles on the faces of the N.C. NAACP and others who challenged the measure because it targeted the African-American vote “with surgical precision.”

With last Monday’s congressional redistricting victory still echoing in their circles, supporters are eagerly anticipating a favorable legislative redistricting decision next week. But for now, this week’s High Court congressional redistricting triumph was both satisfying, and inspiring.

“This should serve as a wakeup call to the Republican-led General Assembly, whose voter suppression tactics have been struck down twice in federal court, in as many weeks,” said black Democrat Rep. Alma Adams, whose 12th Congressional District was ruled unconstitutional because GOP state lawmakers made it a minority-majority for electoral advantage.

“As elected officials, we should be working together to make access to the ballot box easier and more fair. In Congress we must take swift action to restore the Voting Rights Act. In North Carolina, it is time to appoint an independent redistricting commission to return our democracy to the will of the people,” Rep. Adams concluded.

U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield, the other North Carolina black Democrat whose 1st Congressional District the U.S. Supreme Court also ruled was racially gerrymandered, applauded the decision as well, saying that the GOP redistricting “…was an extreme case of racial gerrymandering.”

“Once again with this victory, the courts have said the N.C. General Assembly through apartheid type redistricting engaged in systemic racism and created to win elections,” said the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, outgoing president of the N.C. NAACP.  “Over and over again our unconstitutionally constituted general assembly is being proven to be the antithesis of justice, true democracy and the fundamental principles of equality.”

Here in Forsyth County, part of the 5th Congressional District that is represented by U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.-5), Eric Ellison, chairman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, was resolute.

“The Forsyth County Democratic Party applauds the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in finding that the North Carolina Republican legislature unlawfully drew racially gerrymandered district lines for the 1st and 12th Congressional Districts,” Ellison told The Chronicle.

“Race-based or politically-based gerrymandering [have] no place in North Carolina politics. With this decision in place and the law of the land, the Forsyth County Democratic Party reiterates its demand that the North Carolina Legislature adopt a neutral, bi-partisan redistricting commission immediately for the drawing of Congressional and State district lines.”

“Our democracy calls for it,” Ellison concluded.

Robin Hayes, chairman of the N.C. Republican Party, disagreed with the Supreme Court decision, saying in part, “Our position continues to be the same as the Obama Justice Department on this issue, which pre-cleared these districts as fair and legal. I don’t know how any legislature can perform this task when the rules change constantly from case to case, often after the fact.”

Rep. Foxx’s Washington, D.C. office did not respond to a call from The Chronicle for comment by press time Tuesday, but two announced Democratic candidates vying to unseat Foxx were more than happy to weigh-in.

Winston-Salem Council Member Denise “D.D.” Adams told The Chronicle, “ It’s a victory, it’s a victory for freedom.” Adams vowed that whether or not the 5th District is affected by the ruling in terms of being redrawn, her campaign is going to “Flip the Fifth,” meaning that she stands ready to challenge any perceived Republican advantage Rep. Foxx is believed to have.

The other Democratic challenger, Jennifer “Jenny” Marshall, a teacher, echoed that sentiment, saying that “obviously I’m very pleased” with the ruling, and was very hopeful that both the congressional and legislative district lines would fairly be redrawn, but Marshall said she was also determined to unseat Rep. Foxx no matter what the district configuration.

“Gerrymandering can be beat if we can get out there and register enough people to vote,” Ms. Marshall said.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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