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Unhappy legislators sling mud at court

redistricting

Republican state Sens. Dan Soucek, left, and Brent Jackson, right, review historical maps during The Senate Redistricting Committee for the 2016 Extra Session in the Legislative Office Building at the N.C. General Assembly in Raleigh

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Republican leaders in the General Assembly are upset at the prospect that a court-ordered plan to fix their unconstitutional gerrymandered voter districts might lead to some competitive races in 2018.

After all, Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and their redistricting lieutenants Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Ralph Hise probably feel like they’ve circumvented the U.S. and State Constitutions fair-and-square to manipulate voting districts so African-American voting influence is so mute that as few Democrats as possible get elected.

Being unhappy with a proposed court-mandated plan is one thing, but the dismissive and personally insulting attacks by Hise and Lewis on Nathaniel Persily were in poor taste — more reflecting desperation and the lack of confidence they have in the merit of their own position.

On the other hand, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that the legislature has been obsessed with weakening state judges and dismantling the state’s judicial system.

Referring to Persily as the “so-called ‘special master’” in their statement last week was disrespectful. Then they went on to describe him as a “left-wing California professor.” This is merely avoiding the issues. Calling names happens when the facts stack up against you.

The GOP leadership in the legislature may not like it, but the state and U.S. constitutions demand that all citizens have fair representation in government. It is a violation of citizens’ rights to rig election districts to deny some voters an equal voice because of their race.

Using a common sense approach, the gerrymandering proof isn’t hard to see. Just compare the shape of illegal state House of Representatives districts in Wake County drawn by the General Assembly with those proposed by Persily.

Look at current state House District 39. It meanders up the eastern boundary of the county and squirts a section up to the northwest. Look at current District 34 that seems to strangle a portion of western Wake County while District 49 nestles comfortably around it.

It is a redistricting map more inspired by Jackson Pollock than Thomas Jefferson. It is the result of an effort that’s first priority is to crush, at all costs, one political party rather than seek to assure all citizens are fairly represented.

By contrast, the Wake County districts proposed by Persily are compact and uniform in shape while recognizing geographic integrity, minority voters, neighborhoods and communities. Don’t take our word for it — just look at these maps of Wake County and the statistical data that support the districts’ composition.

The legislature’s redistricting plans have invariably been concocted in secret, keeping motives and methods far from the view of the public they serve. GOP leaders have also relied on their own taxpayer-financed “outside expert” for help drawing the gerrymandered maps, which is conveniently forgotten amid their outrage over Persily’s alternative plan.

There’s no mystery about what Persily’s done or how he’s done it. He has been open, transparent and explicit about his methods and criteria. Legislators and others have had broad opportunities for input. Rather than seeking ways to minimize some voters’ voices, Persily worked to give all voters a full voice in picking their representatives.

The only transparency coming out of the General Assembly these days is the hyper-partisan, inappropriate and insulting braying to impugn the work of a bipartisan panel of judges — working simply to bring fairness to North Carolina’s elections.

You would think that’s a concept they should embrace.

Know this: Anyone with the temerity to disagree with our legislative leaders should be ready for a torrent of mud-slinging in the form of personal attacks and name-calling. They’re taking cues from the Donald Trump playbook.

North Carolina deserves better than this.

Capitol Broadcasting Company of Raleigh

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