Gerrymandering results in special election for NC

A Federal court today ruled that NC’s state legislative districts are so gerrymandered they have to be redrawn and a special election held in 2017. Is this as unusual as I think it is? A little googling didn’t turn up much info on this, but I’m not aware of Federal courts ordering a complete do-over of state elections like that anytime in recent history. I know there have been a lot of lawsuits over Gerrymandering this year, but AFAIK this is the most major court order related to any of them.

Yeah, gotta admit, that’s a new one on me as well. I think there’ll be an appeal.

They’ve already announced an appeal to the Supreme Court, so you got that one right.

Lawsuits regarding specific districts or even entire maps aren’t unheard of, but the successful challenges that I’m aware have resulted in a new map for the next scheduled election. I’m curious as to whether entirely new, off-season elections have been ordered before and if so, when.

So this is interesting.

So, three thoughts:

  1. This order seems like progress against the blatantly racist gerrymandering in our state; but asking the current legislature to draw the districts seems a bit like saying, “Foxes, that henhouse is ENTIRELY TOO EASY to get into. I order you to build a safer henhouse!” What will stop them from designing different racist districts to delay the process?
  2. Given the lower turnout in special elections, and the easier time Republicans seem to have getting turnout in off-year elections, is this just going to make things worse?
  3. My big question: this may be the largest election in the United States in 2017 (please correct me if I’m wrong). Is it gonna be turned into a referendum on Trump’s first year?

Merged threads starting at post #5.


Could someone clarify for me how the legislative districts were racist? Did they put too few blacks in the same district together or too many?

Personally I’d have a hard time claiming that the election of a subset of state legislators in just one state is a referendum on the President with a straight face, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone made that claim.

Generally speaking, too many. Take a look at the 12th House of Representatives district, for an example of the sort of silliness that they engaged in. The state legislative districts were equally insane.

The idea was to make Democratic (hence “black”) districts very densely Democratic. That way, they could spread the “good” voters about in a nice, even way without having to risk making any districts marginal. Again, looking at the House of Representatives districts as an example, in 2012 (the first under the new districts), the Republicans captured 9 out of 13 House seats, despite LOSING the “general” vote by 48.8% to 50.6% (out of votes registered for House candidates). That was a 6 seat margin swing (+3 Reps, -3 Dems).

Don’t, however, think the Dems were any better. In 2010, they captured 7 out of 13 seats (in what was a Republican tidal wave, if you’ll recall), despite having only 45% of the votes cast for House candidates. But THEY weren’t being “racist”, because increasing Democratic seats maximizes “black” results. :dubious:

First, thanks for the merge.

Second, I’d really love to see a serious movement in this country to get away from districts drawn simply by the majority in the legislature. That is clearly a terrible way to have fair elections.

The most obvious way to move away from that is to have legislators pass laws. But that’s clearly a terrible way to get it to happen: it’s very rare that lawmakers pass laws that limit their own power.

Wasn’t there a court case recently in which the 14th amendment was invoked against gerrymandering, inasmuch as gerrymandering makes some votes less meaningful than others? Perhaps that’s the way to go.

The thing is that the Republicans have a natural advantage in this regard. Because there are a lot of neighborhoods which are in fact very heavily black and overwhelmingly Democratic and a greater number of neighborhoods which are Republican but to a lesser extent. So if you allow things to fall along natural boundaries, the Republicans will have the edge. This doesn’t mean that things can’t be gerrymandered for even greater advantage, but natural boundaries seem to favor Republicans, as above.

The flip side of this dynamic is that it gives the Democrats a big advantage in GOTV efforts, since their supporters are much more densely concentrated.

There have been court cases where the Republicans were allied with black Democrats against white Democrats. Because increasing Democratic seats sometimes involves combining black Democratic voters with white Democratic voters and Republicans, such that it increases the likelihood of a white Democrat prevailing over a black Democrat so Black Democrats oppose it. (The Republicans oppose it because they want blacks concentrated out of the white districts, which they can then win.)

I offer for your consideration North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District:

This is what happens when you put all the heavily “black” city centers in one district. :dubious:

That is quite the district map, but according to your Politico cite, “… federal requirements under the Voting Rights Act mandating state governments must create majority-black districts whenever possible.” Aren’t they required to put heavily “black” city center into districts together?

That wasn’t the idea. The idea was to ensure that black voters would have black representatives. The creation of the serpentine 12th was done under a Democratic administration in 1992 as part of a plan to ensure 2 reps from North Carolina would be elected by a majority of black voters. Republicans initially protested, but then sat back and realized that packing that many Democratic voters into a single district was actually good for their chances overall in the state. Republicans actually didn’t do the gerrymandering, they’ve just not done anything to undo it.

You are conflating things I said, which is wrong.

The 12th Congressional District was originally designed to do what you said. But in the re-drawing that occurred after the 2010 census, the Republicans both thinned the district down, and added additional high-Democratic areas to the ends (fattening the Charlotte bulb in the south, and stealing more of Greensboro from the 13th district and adding it to the 12th. THIS was NOT done to promote the chances of guaranteeing two “black” representatives. Indeed, under the current map, only ONE House Representative is “black”. Rather, it was done to maximize the concentration of Democrats in the district, allowing the Republicans to increase the chances of electing Republicans out of the districts which had previously been “marginal.”

In addition, the Republicans changed the previously compact 4th District to be similar to the 12th; it stretched from northwest of Durham east to Raleigh and south to Fayetteville. Again, the purpose was to highly concentrate Democrats (regardless of “color”), leaving surrounding rural and suburban districts with better demographics for Republicans. They were NOT doing this to help get “blacks” elected in North Carolina.

Wasn’t NC one of those states that had to get their districts approved from the DOJ?

Not necessarily. The issue becomes one of just how densely “black” you want the district to be. For example, it’s perfectly possible to create a “majority-black” district out of the Charlotte area, without trying to string it together with the totally unrelated Greensboro and Winston-Salem city centers to the north. Or, at least, it would appear to be the case, because after the District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled that the boundaries of the 12th and 1st Districts were unconstitutional, the North Carolina legislature redrew the 12th District to be limited to Mecklenburg County. This is pending approval of the Court.

Yes, and at the time the districts were originally drawn (2011), they did receive said pre-clearance. But that applies only to certain counties in the state, and it’s not clear what the impact is of considering overall results of district boundaries would be.

The whole mess regarding the House districting is in front of the Supreme Court of the United States, which hears oral arguments on McCrory v Harris (Case 15-1262) on Monday.

I’ve taken to using the term “electoral ghettos”. I’m not sure if I read it somewhere or thought it up myself.

I’m not. What you said suggested that the origins of the district were to pile Democratic voters into a single district in order to spread out Republicans into multiple districts where they could win narrower victories. That’s just incorrect. Republicans may have somewhat reinforced the agenda in future redistricting, but the gerrymandering was entirely the .result of misguided Democrats in the early 90’s. You can’t look at the 1992 version of the electoral map and tell me that the 12th wasn’t ridiculously gerrymandered, can you? Honestly, when I look at it, the original looks even worse.