• 37°

Patrick Gannon: Step out of ‘dark corner’

Republicans can fix what Dems failed to address

RALEIGH – The big debate over redistricting brings to mind another controversy that raged in the capital city not long after Republicans took control of the House and Senate after the 2010 elections.

It was a much different, more personal topic — compensation for victims of North Carolina’s former eugenics program, which sterilized people deemed unfit by state officials to bear or raise children.

But the political dynamics were similar then and now, amid a renewed effort to change the way election districts are drawn.

Back then, Democrats, including some veteran legislators, pushed Republicans relentlessly to approve cash payments to victims as a way to show the state’s remorse for what was obviously a horrible era of N.C. history during the last century.

But Republicans questioned why Democrats — who had held power in Raleigh for generations, including through the eugenics period — didn’t compensate victims when they controlled the state budget.

It was a perfectly good question, and one that made the Democrats advocating for the payments seem a bit hypocritical. They had the power but never did it, so why should they expect Republicans to immediately give in? To their credit, the Republican-led General Assembly ultimately approved payments, many of which have been made to victims.

That brings us to the debate over whether the state should create a nonpartisan commission to draw election districts for Congress and the state House and Senate. Currently, the maps are drawn after each U.S. Census by the political party in power in Raleigh.

The problems with partisan redistricting screamed loudly last week as the legislature considered new congressional maps to replace the ones approved in 2011. A federal court ruled that two of the state’s 13 congressional districts, which were in place for the 2012 and 2014 elections, are racial gerrymanders and demanded new maps.

Republican leaders readily admitted during committee meetings that the new districts were drawn to try to ensure Republicans would retain 10 of 13 congressional districts after this year’s elections. That’s how many they have now.

“I acknowledge freely that this will be a political gerrymander, which is not against the law,” said Rep. David Lewis, a Dunn Republican who leads the House’s redistricting efforts.

It was an open admission that the General Assembly picks its voters, rather than voters picking their representatives in government.

Political gerrymandering occurs today, as Lewis acknowledged, and it also was a regular practice when Democrats were in power.

Just like with the eugenics issue, Democrats are pushing Republicans to make a change to a nonpartisan redistricting process that they could have made, but didn’t, when they were in control.

Republican leaders so far aren’t answering those calls, claiming, among other things, that a fully nonpartisan redistricting process isn’t possible. Everyone has opinions.

“It’s amazing to hear Democrats talk about political gerrymandering. …Your predecessors wrote the book on it,” Sen. Jerry Tillman, an Archdale Republican, told senators during floor debate. “It’s called if you win, you draw the maps, and I don’t believe that’s ever going to change.”

Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Charlotte Democrat fighting for a nonpartisan redistricting process, said on the Senate floor that no one can “honestly defend drawing maps for the express purpose of favoring one political party.” He listed a number of states that have created independent commissions for map drawing.

Jackson challenged Republicans to “leave a legacy of simple fairness and common decency that will outlast all of us.”

“If you bring an end to partisan redistricting, it will be an act of political courage unlike any that this state has seen in a long time,” he said.

Jackson told fellow senators that he would work with any legislator to “step out of this dark corner of our democracy.”

As Republicans did with eugenics.

Patrick Gannon is the editor of the Insider State Government News Service in Raleigh. Reach him at pgannon@ncinsider.com.

Comments

High School

Photo gallery: Carson girls win West Regional, headed to state championship

High School

High school basketball: Carson girls headed to state championship game

Local

Commissioners set date for public hearing on potential solar energy system rule changes

Health

Two of Rep. Sasser’s bills successfully pass through Health Committee

Local

Rep. Warren’s measure to allow removal of public notices from newspapers put on back burner

China Grove

China Grove Town Council weighs future of previously rejected housing development

Local

Salisbury City Council hears public comments, receives presentation on Main Street reconfiguration

Crime

Blotter: Man charged with felony drug offenses

Nation/World

California crash kills 13 of 25 people crammed into SUV

Nation/World

Biden vows enough vaccines by end of May

Coronavirus

State to vaccinate medically vulnerable starting March 24

Coronavirus

One new death, 20 new COVID-19 positives reported in Rowan

Kannapolis

Kannapolis man dies in moped crash

Crime

Salisbury Police chief addresses K-9 video, says officer separated from animal

Local

Rowan Rescue Squad sets record straight on fundraising typo

Local

City approves DOT agreement, Salisbury Station project could begin next year

Local

County plans to use vulture effigy, enforce violations to remedy animal carcass feeding problem

Education

Two weeks after ending enhanced protocols, Catawba has no COVID-19 cases

News

Council to hear revised version of Downtown Main Street Plan

Local

Veto override of NC school reopening bill fails in Senate

News

Political Notebook: Majority of likely voters, local legislators support school reopening bill

Coronavirus

COVID-19 vaccinations in Rowan top positives since start of pandemic

Crime

Man faces drug charges after breaking and entering call

Lifestyle

Waterworks schedules 2021 Summer ARTventures