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GOP leader alleges ‘corruption’ over maps

GOP leader alleges  ‘corruption’ over maps
November 08
04:00 2017

A special master, designated by a federal three-judge panel, is currently tasked to review redrawn N.C. legislative maps in the Covington case to confirm if nine specific districts are legally problematic, and if so, redraw those so that the maps are constitutionally compliant by Friday, Dec. 1.

But Republican legislative leaders, who didn’t want a special master appointed to redraw the maps they submitted to the court in September, are not only blasting the decision and the special master chosen, but one GOP lawmaker in particular, House Majority Leader John Bell IV, was recently recorded allegedly telling a Republican fundraiser in Goldsboro not only that the GOP will lose the redistricting case, but that there was “corruption” between the plaintiffs and the judges.”

“I feel like we’re probably going to lose our case on redistricting. It doesn’t look good,” Rep. Bell, who represents Craven, Greene, Lenoir and Wayne counties, was recorded telling the attendees at the Lenoir-Wayne Republican Men’s Club GOP fundraiser at the Walnut Creek Country Club Oct. 24.

According to NC Policy Watch, a nonprofit progressive state news and commentary website, the N.C. Democratic Party released the audio of Bell’s remarks. He has not responded to press inquiries about them.

“When you talk about corruption, let me tell you something: Did you ever see the plaintiffs and the judges hanging out with each other?” Bell is heard asking his audience.

And then Rep. Bell says something that many observers are already surmising – that the Republicans might sacrifice the 2018 mid-term elections, just to appeal what they already suspect will be a negative verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court, where they feel, because of the 5-4 conservative slant, they would have a better chance to hold onto their legislative districts.

“I feel that they’ll actually, the Supreme Court, will agree with us,” Bell said.

Rep. Bell’s alleged remarks are just the latest indication of Republican legislative leaders hitting the panic button over the federal court’s appointment of Stanford law Professor Nathaniel Persily of California.

It is Persily’s job to correct the nine legislative districts – four Senate and five House – that the judicial panel has deemed to be legally problematic.    

The four Senate districts still reflect the racial gerrymandering evident in the original 2011 N.C. legislative redistricting maps rendered by the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly, and ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The five House districts were redrawn by the legislature in September, but didn’t have to be because they weren’t racially gerrymandered. Since they weren’t part of the original 28 legislative districts under court order to be redrawn, then doing so was in violation of the state Constitution. Persily will now have to return those five House districts to their original boundaries.

Through their attorney, Phil Strach, Republican leaders told the court in a motion that it was premature to appoint Persily to redraw anything before an official ruling is handed down on the previous version of the maps before the GOP had yet a third chance to correct whatever mistakes they made the second time.

But the three-judge panel said no, adding, “The State is not entitled to multiple opportunities to remedy its unconstitutional districts.”

With Dec. 1 the target date for Professor Persily to deliver new maps, it is apparent that the three-judge federal panel wants to get them into the hands of both the plaintiff and defendant’s attorneys for review and comment no later than January, and use whatever time is needed prior to the February filing date for legislative primary candidates to begin filing for office, to finalize the maps.

The expected monkey wrench from the Republicans is that they will immediately appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which, given past experience, would take its time to render a decision, thus pushing the May primaries back, if not the 2018 fall general elections.

One thing is certain, political observers agree, is that North Carolina Republicans do not want to lose the current electoral advantage that the 2011 legislative maps gave them, and would rather delay the 2018 elections until they got a favorable U.S. High Court ruling, as state House Majority Leader Bell said, than try to compete with objectively drawn voting districts that the special master is likely to produce.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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