If you watch enough old movies, you know that there are two types of bank robberies. The first kind is where the bad guys wait until the middle of the night when folks are asleep, then break into the bank and dynamite the safe. Then there’s the other kind of caper, where the bad guys are so bold and arrogant, that they rob the bank in broad daylight. The latter approach is a real insult to the townsfolk because not only are you stealing their money, you’re also thumbing your nose at them while you’re fleecing them. That’s how it is with Republican legislators in Raleigh every time they commence to re-draw the State’s Congressional districts.
Last week they did it again.
Thanks to the latest U.S. Census, North Carolina picked up an additional seat in Congress, which will bring our total delegation to 14 representatives next year. According to the State Board of Elections, there are more Democrats registered to vote than there are Republicans. In fact, GOP registration (1.5 million) comes in third behind Dems (2.1 million) and Unaffiliated voters (2 million). And so, you’d think that when the new district lines are drawn, there’d be a majority Democrats, for example, an 8 to 6 split. But a funny thing happened on the way to the drawing board. Republican lawmakers have come up with a new map that could easily give them 11 Congressmen to the Dems’ 3. How is that possible? One word: Gerrymandering.
Instead of grouping entire counties into a single Congressional district, the GOP map as proposed carves up counties in such a messy way that it would make a butcher cringe. For example, Kathy Manning currently represents the 6th Congressional district, which includes all of Guilford and most of Forsyth, and takes in all three of the Triad’s largest cities, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point. But according to initial reports, the GOP map would divide Guilford County into three separate districts, and pit Manning against Watauga’s Virginia Foxx.
Groups like the NAACP and Common Cause believe the GOP map would make it difficult for Democrats and minorities to win a seat in Congress, and they have filed suit to ask that racial data be considered when drawing the new districts, so as to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act. Meanwhile, elected officials are openly complaining about the corrupt system of gerrymandering.
“It’s not coincident that it’s only in the urban areas that you subject these counties to that kind of treatment,” said Senator Dan Blue of Wake County. And Manning added, “The proposed lines are not a reflection of the best interests of North Carolina but rather, an offering to the national Republican party.”
A few years ago, a class of 8th graders at a Pennsylvania middle school was given the assignment to draw an equitable Congressional map. In short order, they divided up districts according to population while respecting county boundaries as much as possible. It was hailed as a blueprint for ensuring fair and balanced representation among races and political parties. Clearly what we need here in North Carolina is a bunch of kids to draw our new Congressional map. The problem is there’s never an 8th grader around when you need one.