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Political Notebook: Former NC governors say partisan gerrymandering ‘breaks the system’

As a state court began hearing a challenge to partisan gerrymandering last week, four former governors issued a statement supporting the plaintiffs who brought the case.

The Common Cause v. Lewis trial began July 15 in Wake County Superior Court.

Democrats and Common Cause are hoping to have the 2017 state House and Senate maps redrawn for the 2020 elections. The case comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it does not have a role in deciding whether election districts are too partisan.

Signed by former Govs. Jim Hunt, Jim Martin, Mike Easley and Bev Perdue, the statement says that “partisan gerrymandering, no matter which party holds the majority, breaks this system.”

They said the partisan districts have produced hyper-partisan legislators who are unwilling to work across party lines.

“As former governors of both political parties, it is distressing to have seen this unfold in our state’s history,” the former governors said. 

Martin is a Republican; Hunt, Easley and Perdue are Democrats.

The former governors said the consequences of partisan gerrymandering are discouraging compromise, increasing divisiveness, discouraging capable people from seeking office and eroding the faith of the people in state government.

They urged the courts to rule that partisan gerrymandering violates the basic principles of the North Carolina constitution.

“It is also clear to all of us that this state of affairs will not improve without judicial relief,” they said.

Challengers of the district maps presented the computer files of a deceased Republican mapmaker which they said show how GOP legislators drew boundary lines with political bias. Western Carolina University Professor Chris Cooper testified Friday about Tom Hofeller’s files, saying they show that partisanship was front and center in his work and the lines benefitted one party at the other’s expense.

The trial will continue this week.

Local legislators’ bills are now law

Gov. Roy Cooper signed several bills into law Friday that were sponsored by Reps. Harry Warren, R-76, and Julia Howard, R-77.

Renewable Energy Amendments, or H.B. 329, would allow electric power suppliers to sell electricity at electric vehicle charging stations. According to Warren, who was one of the primary sponsors of the bill, it is a way to make the state more attractive to tourists as the sale of electric vehicles has increased.

Howard wrote the Allow Absentee Ballots/Fire District Election bill, or H.B. 18. The law allows absentee voting in fire district elections.

Howard was also a primary sponsor of the Simplify Builder Inventory Exclusion bill, or H.B. 492, which replaces an annual application with a one-time application for builder inventory property tax exclusions. The law will apply for taxes imposed beginning this month.

A food code law of which Howard was a primary sponsor allows the Commission for Public Health to adopt the 2017 U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Code in its entirety or in part.

Meanwhile, Warren is still waiting for the governor’s signature on his bill that would create a task force to evaluate wastewater rules. The House passed the bill July 10, and it went to the governor July 12.

Cooper signed a total of 23 bills into law Friday.

Trump campaign announces North Carolina leadership

Donald J. Trump for President Inc. and the Republican National Committee last week announced their North Carolina leadership teams.

“North Carolina was key to President Trump’s victory in 2016 and will be vital again for Republicans at all levels,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a joint statement. “The people of North Carolina are feeling the benefits of the president’s and Republican policies, and we are confident they will support Republicans and President Trump’s re-election next year.”

Trump won North Carolina with 49.83% of the vote in 2016.

The campaign boasted about the state’s decreased unemployment rate and addition of manufacturing jobs.

Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page will be Trump’s N.C. campaign chairman, and Louis DeJoy will be the finance chairman for Trump Victory North Carolina along with the RNC national deputy finance chairman.

“The campaign and RNC will each have comprehensive teams on the ground in North Carolina, generating an unstoppable tailwind behind the president and all Republican candidates,” the joint statement said. “Our teams will propel the president and Republicans at all levels to victory in North Carolina on Nov. 3, 2020.”



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