Tuesday, April 16, 2013

North Carolina's Gerrymandered Assembly

In democracy, we believe that power derives from the people who either exercise their power directly or through leaders in free and fair elections.  One of the fundamental tenets of democracy is that people choose their leaders by voting.  Voters did not choose the North Carolina General Assembly so much as the North Carolina General Assembly's leaders chose their voters.  When leaders choose their voters, they usually do so by drawing on two types of tactics: voter suppression and gerrymandering.  The irony of GOP Gerrymandering in North Carolina is not lost on the Duke Faculty.

The term "gerrymander" was the term coined for a district carved in Massachusetts to favor Elbridge Gerry's Democratic-Republican Party over the Federalists.  The district was drawn to pick the voters and its bizarre shape led to the following political cartoon of the Gerry-Mander:

This beast's shape presage's its actual appetites.  Federalists objected in their newspapers to this affront to democracy.  While real salamanders are innocent amphibians, early medieval writers had ascribed to them magical qualities as beasts that lived on fire.  The Gerry Mander was thus not a lowly amphibian, but more like a fire-breathing dragon, threatening to devour democracy.

When complaining about the evils of gerrymandering for decades when they were out of control, the North Carolina GOP found a sympathetic ear among law professors, especially the esteemed Professor Robinson O. Everett.  Professor Everett successfully argued before the United States Supreme Court that North Carolina's General Assembly had engaged in unlawful gerrymandering by creating racial preferences in its districts to create a congressional district with a majority of minority voters.  Everett's victory was a high water mark of jurisprudence against gerrymandering.

Twenty years later, the NC GOP found itself in charge of redistricting, thanks to the work of then GOP Chairman Tom Fetzer.

So now we have the Fetzer-Mander!

1 comment:

  1. Worth noting that, despite the ferocity of such a beast, NC had a valiant knight who tamed it to do his bidding. According to an investigation by Pro Publica (http://www.propublica.org/article/how-dark-money-helped-republicans-hold-the-house-and-hurt-voters),

    "Republican state legislators tasked with redistricting frequently visited and consulted with the mapping team, according to depositions. Even Art Pope, the most influential conservative donor in the state, was appointed "co-counsel" to the legislative leadership and allowed in the room to give direct instructions to the technician.

    "We worked together at the workstation," said Joel Raupe, the technical expert paid by Fair and Legal Redistricting, in a deposition. "He sat next to me."

    Pope, who is a lawyer but does not actively practice, was made co-counsel to the state legislature, offering his services pro bono. Now, because he was technically a legal adviser to the state, he says any information about his involvement in the redistricting is privileged."