Political Notebook: Rowan lawmakers respond to court’s redistricting ruling

Published 7:07 pm Monday, February 7, 2022

The county’s state and federal lawmakers say a ruling from the North Carolina Supreme Court throwing out adopted redistricting maps violated the state constitution.

On Friday, a 4-3 decision, with Democrats comprising the majority, ruled state courts had authority to throw out district lines that secured a Republican advantage in a closely divided state. The ruling directed the Republican-led General Assembly to redraw maps no later than Feb. 18 and provide an explanation of how they calculated partisan fairness. If OK’d by courts, the maps will be used for the May 17 primary election.

The ruling stated the General Assembly violates the state constitution when “it deprives a voter of his or her right to substantially equal voting power on the basis of partisan affiliation,” according to the majority opinion signed by Senior Associate Justice Robin Hudson. “Achieving partisan advantage incommensurate with a political party’s level of statewide voter support is neither a compelling nor a legitimate governmental interest.”

Responding to the ruling, N.C. Sen. Carl Ford, a Republican representing Stanly and Rowan counties, referenced Article II, Sections 3 and 5 within the North Carolina Constitution. Article II, Section 3.4 states, “When established, the senate districts and the apportionment of senators shall remain unaltered until the return of another decennial census of population taken by the order of Congress.” That same sentence is stated again under Section 5 regarding the N.C. House.

“The General Assembly draws maps, not judges,” Ford said. “Because of a partisan vote of the court, we will draw maps for the fourth time in four years. It’s absurd.”

Ford added the maps were drawn in an open process, including town hall discussions to seek public input across the state prior to drawing the new districts.

Ford said he expects lawmakers may begin that process this week, though nothing has been scheduled on the legislative calendar.

Shortly after new congressional and state legislative maps were adopted in November, two separate lawsuits were filed, with North Carolina League of Conservation Voters and math experts backing one and another from voters backed by an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Suits alleged partisan- and race-based manipulation of district boundaries, or gerrymandering. Plaintiffs alleged the maps violated the state constitution and broke rules from a state Supreme Court ruling in the early 2000s that determined racial data must be considered during the drawing of political districts because of protections granted in the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In January, a three-judge panel of Superior Court refused to throw out the maps, saying they could not declare the legislators’ actions violated state constitution provisions because the process is inherently political and many of the lawsuits’ claims fall outside of the court’s scope.

Judges also stated in the order that, though the maps are “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting,” they were still borne out of a democratic process.

Ford was the only state lawmaker representing Rowan to provide comments on the ruling. Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican in District 76, declined to comment.

Rep. Ted Budd, a Republican who represents North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District and running for U.S. Senate, called it an “unconstitutional decision” and one that was a “completely Democrat- and court-driven decision.”

Budd said maps have been thrown out on political and racial grounds before, but it’s still not up to the court to determine how the maps should be drawn.

“The decision-maker should be the state House and the state Senate that the people have duly elected,” Budd said. “The courts should not interfere.”

Before the candidate filing period was halted in December, Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican currently representing the 8th District, was the only candidate who filed for election to the 10th District, which was slated to include Rowan County.

Budd responds to GOP remarks about Jan. 6 riot

Rep. Ted Budd, a Republican representing the state’s 13th Congressional District, told the Post he’s “for justice everywhere” in response to the GOP’s remarks last week about the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The Republican National Committee on Friday gathered in Salt Lake City for its winter meeting, where the party censured Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for their participation in the bipartisan committee investigating events that led to the riot. They also were rebuked for their condemnation of former President Donald Trump’s role in spreading the false information about the 2020 election that fueled the riot that resulted in multiple deaths.

Budd said the path that Cheney and Kinzinger have taken is “very unfortunate,” calling them “destructive” and motivated by a false sense of self-righteousness.

“They don’t do anything to make the party better,” Budd said.

The Republican from Davie County has aligned himself with Trump, receiving an early endorsement from the former president on the same day Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump confirmed she would not be entering the race.

Last month, Politico reported that the Jan. 6 panel obtained a draft executive order the former president never issued that would have directed the defense secretary to seize voting machines across the nation. Budd told the Post “election security is paramount” and it shouldn’t be a partisan issue to make sure the machines are delivering voter integrity for all voters.

“I’m very concerned about those events on Jan. 6,” Budd said. “I’m for justice anywhere. There should be an investigation, but it should not be politicized and it has been recently. Whether it’s in Portland or whether it’s in Washington D.C., I’m for justice everywhere. I don’t think that it does our country any good to single out that day to the neglect of dealing with burning down our cities back during the summer of 2020, including downtown Raleigh.” 

Salisbury councilman will be guest speaker at Rowan Democrats’ monthly breakfast

Salisbury Councilman Anthony Smith will give a presentation titled “We are Prisoners of Hope: a talk on Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail” Saturday during Rowan County Democrats’ February breakfast.

King’s letter, written in 1963, became a foundational document for the Civil Rights Movement in America. In the letter, King writes, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It also details the public’s moral responsibility to take direct action against injustice rather than waiting for such action.

The meeting will be held via Zoom, with the breakfast beginning at 10 a.m. Those interested must first register at tinyurl.com/rowanfeb2022.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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