Constitutionality of voting districts should be examined

Constitutionality of voting districts should be examined

Erica Bandenchini

The North Carolina  Supreme Court announced Friday that it has denied a motion by civil rights advocacy groups that challenged the boundaries of voting districts that were established in 2011, according to ABC News.

These groups hoped to postpone the start of the 2014 election schedule, which is set to begin Feb. 10 with candidate filing.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years based on the national census. Maps that were approved in 2011 were already used in 2012 and 2013. The same civil rights advocacy groups that are currently asking to put off the start of elections asked two years ago for the same thing. Their requests were denied then, as well.

If voting districts have been an issue since the redrawing of the maps in 2011, perhaps it is worth it for Supreme Court judges to look into their constitutionality.

Instead, when asked by plaintiffs, the justices gave no explanation as to why the motion was denied, according to ABC News.

The issues are primarily centered on the 1st and 12th Congressional Districts. The first weaves through parts of 24 counties, only containing five whole counties. Some voters felt that the new districting ignored the rural and agricultural interests of Coastal Plain residents, according to the News & Observer. Meanwhile the 12th district’s boundaries tend to widen and narrow to encircle African-American communities.

These gerrymandering techniques are called cracking and packing where certain demographics are split to have their voting voice lessened or collected to contain their voice to a single district and representative.

Supporters of the new voting districts believe they are constitutional. In July, a three-member panel of N.C. Superior Court justices rejected that some of the districts were drawn deliberately to weaken the influence of certain groups of voters, according to the Charlotte Observer.

The shapes of these districts, particularly the 1st and 12th, definitely seems to be a little odd. It is important for state justices to find out if they are indeed causing a problem. If  they find that the new districting is in fact constitutional, the civil rights advocacy groups that have been fighting them for two years should allow elections to proceed.

The fact that these groups have been advocating for election postponement due to redistricting since 2011 certainly draws attention to the possibility of gerrymandering. Regardless of partisanship, this is an unfortunate reality in today’s society. N.C. Supreme Court justices should look into the issue, rather than responding to plaintiffs with a simple, “No.”

In a different vein, if the maps have been found to be constitutional for the past two years, they might indeed be legal. If this is the case, civil rights groups should stop trying to halt the election schedule.

Until they are given a thorough explanation as to why the election is being allowed to proceed, civil rights advocacy groups are right to press the issue. Perhaps this will push the N.C. Supreme Court to look into the possibility of gerrymandering in the state’s districts.

Badenchini, a freshman journalism major from Apex, is an opinion writer.