Yesterday Slate broke a story about leaked audio revealing, according to Slate, “how state lawmakers are taught to trash evidence, avoid the word gerrymander, and create an appearance of bipartisanship.” The audio originated from an August 2019 conference hosted by the notorious American Legislative Exchange Council, commonly known as ALEC. ALEC is funded by conservative megadonors like Charles Koch and the late David Koch and supports Republican state lawmakers by pushing boilerplate conservative legislation.
The North Carolina lawmakers and their staff who attended this meeting went on to draw legislative maps just one month after hearing a presentation where an influential Republican lawyer advised “if you don’t want it turned over in discovery, you probably ought to get rid of it before you go home.” These lawmakers went on to draw legislative maps as ordered by the court including Rep. Destin Hall who chaired the House’s redistricting process and a staffer for Rep. David Lewis who served as the committee’s Senior Chair.Read More
Running list of laws passed by the Republican-led NC legislature that have been found unconstitutional.Read More
This week a three-judge panel struck down North Carolina’s state legislative districts on the grounds of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. In a landmark decision after years of litigation, the judges determined that the state’s partisan gerrymandering was so egregious that it violated the state’s constitutional clauses guaranteeing equal protection and free elections. Lighting a proverbial fire under state legislative leaders, the court ordered a redraw within two weeks without the use of “election data.” Any delay could result pushing back 2020 primaries.
The North Carolina decision is significant because it is the first to come after the Supreme Court punted on Rucho v. Common Cause. In a 5-4 decision in June of this year, the court ruled that questions of partisangerrymandering (as opposed to racialgerrymandering on which SCOTUS issued a definitive rebuke of North Carolina’s maps in 2017) are out of the purview of federal courts. The question rests in state hands and the North Carolina judiciary gave a decisive answer.
North Carolina is hardly unique in its years-long battle over Republican partisan gerrymandering. Nationally, with few exceptions, state legislatures draw political districts. Subsequently, bitter legal fights over the concentration of political power ensued in other deeply divided swing states (notably Pennsylvania and Florida). In January 2018 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s GOP-drawn congressional districts were unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. In a “scathing indictment of political gerrymandering,” the ruling struck down maps deemed one of the top three starkest partisan gerrymanders in the country. Similar to North Carolina, the court found that Pennsylvania’s districts were “tortuously drawn” with Democratic voters “packed” into concentrated districts to dilute their political power (a tactic Democratic voters in North Carolina will find familiar).Read More
Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne), who’s been a bellwether before on changes to House Republican’s electoral plans, may have let more secrets slip from the witness stand on Wednesday.
Bell was questioned during the eighth day of testimony in the Common Cause v Lewisgerrymandering trial and said Rep. David Lewis’s (R-Harnett) traditionally strong Republican district might get more competitive in 2020. When pressed, Bell refused to confirm or deny Lewis’s electoral plans.Read More
In December 2016 then-Governor Pat McCrory confirmed the legislature planned to pack the NC Supreme Court by claiming he worked to “deter efforts to expand” the court. Since December of 2016, Republicans have made several attempts at legislative selection of judges, culminating i…Read More
During a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Thursday, Sen. Newton admitted Republicans constitutional amendment on judicial vacancies is a first step in a drive towards judicial selection process:
“We are trying to drive our state toward a merit based judicial selection process.” – Sen. Newton
The comment came in a discussion about S814, which would give the General Assembly some control over judicial appointments, a power now solely held by the Governor.Read More
In this Real Facts NC Candidate Profile, we turn our attention to the North Carolina Supreme Court and Associate Justice Barbara Jackson. Jackson was elected to the NC Supreme Court in 2010 and is running for re-election this upcoming November. Before becoming an Associate Justice, Jackson was elected as a judge on the NC Court of Appeals and served for six years. Prior to her judgeship, Jackson practiced law for fourteen years, including time as General Counsel to Republican Cherie Berry in the NC Department of Labor and in the office of Republican Governor James G. Martin. Read the full profile of Jackson here.
“We are compelled to exercise judicial restraint and defer to the General Assembly's judgment.” – Jackson in Dickson v. Rucho, on the right of the General Assembly to keep secret its communications about the 2011 legislative maps that were later ruled unconstitutional.
In this installment of the Real Facts NC legislator profile series, we focus on Rep. Jon Hardister, a third-term Republican representing House District 59 in Guilford County. Hardister first ran for office in 2010, but lost to incumbent Rep. Pricey Harrison. He tried again in the newly created House District 59 in 2012 and was successful. Despite being elected thanks to 2011 districts later ruled unconstitutional gerrymanders, Hardister is a vocal proponent of independent redistricting. However, his voting record says otherwise with support of all Republican redistricting plans since his election.
Hardister rose quickly to power in the NC House and became Majority Whip in 2016. He is an Appropriations vice-chair and serves as chair of the Capital Appropriations committee, giving him significant influence over the state’s budget and the internal dealings that create it. Hardister’s priorities are clear. He helped write budgets that shortchange education and pushed for charter school expansion proven to take money away from NC school districts. Hardister favors deregulation for big business over protecting clean air and water for future North Carolinians. Read more on Hardister here.
“This was the right thing to do when Democrats were in power, and it is still the right thing to do today.” – Rep. Jon Hardister on nonpartisan redistricting (Greensboro News & Record, 3/1/15)
At the 2009 Republican Legislative Campaign Committee’s national meeting, Thomas Hofeller (yes, that name sounds familiar) presented the strategy Republicans would use to boost wins in 2010 and beyond, according to recently released court documents.
Hofeller’s June 2009 presentation, “2010 Redistricting: Preparing for Success,” explains why Republicans dominate the NCGA with a seemingly impenetrable super majority. The GOP’s strategy to “reinvent the gerrymander” was successful in North Carolina.
By December 2009 the presentation included the Republican State Leadership Committee’s plans to bankroll 2010 legislative races in North Carolina, $95,000 in the House and $234,000 in the Senate. Winning key races would allow RSLC to implement its REDMAP strategy across the U.S.
The REDMAP plan gives key insight into how Republicans have maintained control of the N.C. General Assembly. Art Pope put forth his own money for REDMAP, and RSLC sent $1.25 million to Pope’s network to elect Republicans in 2010. Pope spent around $2.2 million to accomplish that goal.Read More
Yesterday’s three-and-a-half hour meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting produced a new round of maps, a few heated exchanges, and no actual vote.
The meeting began innocuously enough; Brad Fowler from the Associated Office of the Courts (AOC) presented workload formulas for judicial officials, followed by almost two hours of questions from legislators.
Of course, the main event was yet to come: a battle over another set of new maps. New prosecutorial, district, and superior court divisions reading “Option A” were passed out during a short break about two hours into the meeting.
After introducing the new maps, Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly) fielded questions from incredulous Democratic legislators who attempted to pin down the exact criteria used to redraw the districts. Exchanges between Burr and Democratic legislators became more heated; Sens Blue and McKissick repeatedly asked if there was a guiding criteria or rationale for drawing these maps other than “just arbitrary.” Burr recited his mantra that he was attempting to correct population imbalances and that he had met with judicial officials who wanted a map that was more in line with their existing districts.
Sen. McKissick, however, continued to push. Asking for a document that summarizes data of criteria, Burr pointed him to the website. However, McKissick responded that no written document exists there.Read More