Gerrymandering Rigs NC Politics. Will The Supreme Court Un-Rig It?

Mar 25, 2019

If you’re a student at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, you have to check your voter card carefully. If you live on one side of Laurel Street, you vote in Congressional District 13. If you live on the other side, you vote in Congressional District 6.

District 6 looks fairly normal on the map. But District 13 looks like it sprung a leak and bled over into Guilford County, where it just by chance splits N.C. A&T – a historically black university – in half.

That’s not the only district that looks weird. Over in the western part of the state, District 10 reaches out like a pickpocket and palms half of Asheville from District 11. And District 9 crawls like a cankerworm along the southern border of the state, chewing up five full counties and parts of three others. It’s so far from one side of the district to the other that the style of barbecue changes along the way. It’s hard enough to govern without having to choose between Eastern style and Western style.

All this is the result of gerrymandering. It’s one of politics’ darkest arts. North Carolina Republicans have been exceptionally good at it. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will ponder the argument that they’ve been a little too good.

Let’s be clear: The party in power almost always tries to draw voting districts in their favor. But GOP legislators here in North Carolina mashed the gas all the way to the floor. As in most states, our state legislature draws Congressional district lines. And back in 2016, Rep. David Lewis said he wanted the lines drawn to wind up with 10 Republicans and three Democrats… only because he couldn’t figure out how to make it 11 and two.

And it worked! In the 2018 election, Republicans won 10 of our congressional races and Democrats won three. One of those GOP wins is now up in the air because of the shenanigans in the 9th District but even if you take that one off the board, for now, Republicans won 75 percent of the remaining seats, even though they got only 50 percent of the statewide votes.

That’s how gerrymandering works. It makes the other party’s votes count less than they should. It is, by definition, rigging the system.

It also falls somewhere on that line between morally wrong and unconstitutional. At the very least, it’s unfair. And now the Supreme Court will decide just how unfair it is.

A lot of Supreme Court watchers think this might come down to a 5-4 vote. That would mean that the future of how we elect members of Congress could swing on the vote of the newest Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh.

And that, y’all, is a whole other discussion about fairness, and morality.

Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.