Opinion

GOP fails NC voters

cliddy@newsobserver.com

This editorial appeared in The News & Observer

Republicans who made such a mess of gerrymandering legislative districts to reduce the power of minority voters – that was the finding of courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court – are rightly being called to account by Gov. Roy Cooper. He wants a special session of the General Assembly to redraw district maps to correct gerrymandering. But within hours, Republicans in the General Assembly soundly repudiated the governor. He was doing his duty; they don’t want to do theirs.

Redistricted maps drawn in 2011 were an attempt on the part of Republicans to virtually guarantee their dominance of legislative elections for 10 years. (The maps are redone by the party in power after every census.)

To accomplish that, they packed minority voters into some districts, weakening their power in others. It’s called racial gerrymandering, and courts have ruled that 28 legislative N.C. districts were illegal racial gerrymanders. Almost all districts will have to be redrawn, and though the U.S. Supreme Court did not go along with a lower-court ruling that special elections should also be held this year, it affirmed the ruling that those districts were racially gerrymandered.

A three-judge panel will now look again at how to fix the problem created by inexperienced, single-minded GOP lawmakers who cared only about increasing their own power – not fair representation.

But it’s Cooper’s right to demand a special session. Republicans made this mess, and they have an obligation to the people of North Carolina to clean it up. But in rejecting the governor on Thursday – the day he designated for the beginning of such a session – they insulted the people of North Carolina on the flimsiest of grounds. One GOP leader said there were no “extraordinary circumstances” as required by the state constitution for such a session.

That’s wrong. When legislative districts have been rejected by the courts as racial gerrymanders, that’s an extraordinary circumstance.

Cooper was within his rights, and the people know it. This was a shameful day indeed for the Republican leadership.

The most laughable reasoning Republicans give for not wanting to address the issue in a special session is that they’re too busy doing important work in the legislature.

Right. Things like loosening gun regulations, giving tax cuts to the wealthy and businesses, and giving paltry raises to teachers and state employees. Wow, what an agenda.

The truth is, Republicans are liable to keep spending the public’s money to preserve their ridiculous legislative districts if they can, in the name of partisan advantage and nothing more.

It’s hard to understand why Republicans, who won their majorities fair and square, are apparently so afraid of losing that they want to skew the election process in their favor. If they believe so strongly they’re serving the people, what are they afraid of? If their agenda has been so wise, then they shouldn’t fear a fair fight.

Why do they?

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