Gerrymandering: a small part of a larger problem


By: Jarrett Carlson


On Jan. 9, a federal court in North Carolina ruled that the congressional districts drawn by the Republican legislature were illegally gerrymandered due to excessive amounts partisanship in favor of the Republican party.

Due to this, judges James A. Wynn, W. Earl Britt and William L. Osteen Jr. ruled that the lines must be redrawn by Jan. 24. The court then said that it would hire a redistricting expert to draw replacement boundaries should the Republican legislature fail to do so.

This is not the first time that NC Republicans have been ruled against in a gerrymandering case. In February 2016, federal judges ruled that race had been the primary factor in the composition of the 1st and 12th districts, according to AP News.

This case is special because this is the first time that a federal court has struck down a congressional map for partisan gerrymandering.

Normally the courts are reluctant to see these sorts of cases for the dilemma that they create. According to the Washington Post, in the oral arguments for a similar case from Wisconsin, Gill v Whitford, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts Jr. said, “Politics is a very important driving force [in redistricting], and those claims will be raised. And every one of them will come here for a decision on the merits. We will have to decide in every case whether the Democrats win or the Republicans win.” However, the court rules will be perceived as partisan. “And that is going to cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of the decisions of this court in the eyes of the country,” Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts Jr. said.

In other words, it is quite difficult for a court to maintain nonpartisanship while ruling on partisan matters, meaning that it would take overt statements and/or acts of partisan intent in the creation of district lines to allow for a clear ruling.

That said, NC Republicans provided just that, and more, for the court to use in ruling against the congressional map.

From Judge Wynn’s 191-page opinion, he found that state Republicans were “motivated by invidious partisan intent” in the creation of the thirteen districts in NC, 10 of which were Republican and only three Democrat.

Wynn further cited a February 2016 quote from Representative David Lewis, R-Harnett, the legislator who drew the congressional lines, who stated that “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.”

An even clearer example of the partisan nature of the congressional lines is another quote from Lewis who said that he made the map featuring 10 republicans and three democrats “because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats,” according to WRAL.

WRAL reported that the reason he made the comment was that he was trying to prove that race was not a deciding factor in the creation of the map.

Lewis must think that admitting to blatant political corruption is a great way of assuaging the public’s fear of him and the rest of his ilk’s smaller scale corruption.

Furthermore, North Carolina is just the most blatant example of something that is an endemic issue all throughout the nation.

According to a study done by The Associated Press, it was determined that gerrymandering benefits Republicans far more than it does Democrats.

This coincided with a report from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, which determined “clear evidence that aggressive gerrymandering is distorting the nation’s congressional maps,” posing a “threat to democracy.”

What this boils down to is that the Republican party is not playing by the rules anymore. They are deliberately subverting the United States’ political structure in order to ensure their continued governance.

In this they are truly putting party over country. They are robbing people of their choice and their right to vote as inscribed in the Constitution.

For the party of Reagan that seemed to oppose fascism in the past, Republicans sure are quick to adopt its methods when it suits them.

Q Russell is a junior journalism major from Charlotte, North Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter at @Q_M_Russell

Cartoon by: Jarrett Carlson, Cartoonist