It’s important to vote in the upcoming election, but for North Carolina voters, especially Democrats, their vote may not hold the weight they think it does.
North Carolina has a rich history of gerrymandering dating back to the 1980s. Gerrymandering is the generic term for the manipulation of political boundaries to favor one group over another. This can be done to favor a political party, a racial group or as an incumbent protection plan.
In the past, North Carolina has been either gerrymandered in a partisan or racial way by both parties, and often both. Since 2016 though, judges have struck down two different district maps, drawn by Republicans, on grounds of some form of gerrymandering.
In the 2016 Supreme Court case Cooper v. Harris, the Supreme Court upheld a district court’s ruling that two districts from a 2011 map were unconstitutionally gerrymandered. In August, the District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina said a 2016 congressional redistricting plan was made with the express purpose to “ensure Republican candidates would prevail in the vast majority of the State’s congressional districts.”
“The weight of the evidence suggests that the Republican Party has a such severe advantage in the state of North Carolina that the North Carolina Republican Party may not have had a majority in some elections since 2010 if the state were not gerrymandered,” William Hicks, assistant professor in the Department of Government and Justice Studies, said. “What that would mean is that we’ve essentially had a strong one-party Republican government since then, but we likely would have seen some Democratic majorities emerge in a few instances.”
Hicks said that in our increasingly polarized nation, this has led to “profound policy consequences,” and that had there been Democratic majorities, it is likely that they would have enacted more liberal policies ,such as increased education spending and decreased criminal justice spending.
At least since they took power in 2010, the Republicans in North Carolina have stopped playing by the rules.
“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,” Rep. David Lewis, the legislator who drew the 2016 maps, said.
To this end, he made it so that 10 of the districts were Republican and three were Democratic. Lewis said he would have made it 11 and two if he could have.
Gerrymandering violates the spirit of democracy and tells people of the disadvantaged party that their vote doesn’t matter. However, although violating the spirit of democracy doesn’t hold up in court, going against the Constitution does.
The most recent bout of gerrymandering in North Carolina was struck down on the basis that it violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause and the First Amendment. It violated the 14th Amendment by diluting non-Republican votes, weakening them and saying that not all voices are equal. It violated the First Amendment by disenfranchising Democratic voters and saying that if one votes Democrat, their vote won’t matter.
Unfortunately, because the maps created in 2016 were deemed unconstitutional so close to election day, these are the maps that the North Carolina elections are using. For Democratic voters, it might seem pointless to vote.
Despite this, it is important to vote, not only as a form of protest, but also out of spite for the bad hand the Republicans have dealt. It is important to show them that the House doesn’t always win. In fact, show them that, without their cheating, they wouldn’t even be the House.
Written by: Q Russell, Opinion Editor