Town hall gathering addresses gerrymandering in state’s voting maps

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, September 28, 2022

By Elisabeth Strillacci

SALISBURY — A nonpartisan group gathered Tuesday night at Mission House to talk with residents about the legal case Moore v. Harper that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear.

The case has been before both the state Supreme Court and Appellate Court, and in both cases, the courts determined the maps, drawn by the Republican-dominated state legislature, are gerrymandered in order to essentially elect more Republicans, despite the fact that the state typically votes about 50-50.

Sailor Jones, who represents Common Cause NC, the plaintiff in the case, said it is not a matter of party, but a matter of all rights.

“If we lose the right to vote, we’ve got nothing,” he said. “And that applies to all of us.”

Gino Nuzolillo, communications advocate for the Southern Coalition of Justice, said the organization, and specifically Katlin Kaiser, voting rights attorney, will be litigating the case.

In explaining how the case ended up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Nuzolillo said, “The legislators threw the temper tantrum of the century when the state court disagreed with them.” But in the beginning, SCOTUS had determined that because the U.S. Constitution does not speak to gerrymandering of voter maps, they could not hear the case, and sent the issue back to state courts.

Now, as the legislators are dissatisfied with the state court findings, they have again asked SCOTUS to hear it, and four members of the court have agreed, though it is unknown which four members that is.

The meeting Tuesday was to discuss how to talk about finding common ground to discuss the issue with the idea that having a legislature with no checks on voter legislation is not good for anyone. The goal is to figure out how the issue affects each individual.

“I don’t think it’s just about us, though,” said Bob Foreman, who came with his wife, Beth. “It’s our children and grandchildren who would end up living in a world where you can’t speak, you can’t read books, because politicians are telling you that you can’t. That’s not a life.”

Several at the meeting expressed concern about reaching younger people, noting that at meetings like the one Tuesday, there are rarely young adults, college students or teens.

Haywood Hayes, one college student from Concord, said he does not think it is that young people do not care.

“This is a tyrannical event coming that cannot be contained once it’s
done,” he said. “It is the first step to states getting individual power, then going to war with each other. But it’s not that we don’t care — we do care, very much. But we need to be informed, and we get so much of our information from places like TikTok. But, a great example is the legislator who got on there and broke it all down. There were people ages 17 to 24 commenting on that post, saying, ‘Oh we have to do something about this.’ So once we know, we care very much.”

Jordan Davis, who has run a challenging political campaign for a candidate in Georgia, said it is “ a matter of meeting young people where they are.”

Hayes agreed.

“You don’t have to tell a bunch of people,” he said. “You just have to tell one person, and that one person can change the world.”

During the meeting it was pointed out that a conference of state chief justices have written to SCOTUS saying they do not support the legislators’ efforts to remove all checks and balances from legislation on voting. It would remove a governor’s ability to veto any legislation on voting, and it would remove the state court’s authority to overturn legislation. In essence, the legislature would then be free to pass any laws regarding voting that they deemed fit, including elimination of early voting, instituting voter ID laws that North Carolina has so far avoided, increasing restrictions on or eliminating mail in voting — and the list goes on.

Sooner or later, even if it is much later, eventually the party in control will lose, and then those who are fighting for this unfettered control will be faced with an opposing party that would then have that same control.

“We need to be sure the Supreme Court justices are very clear on how North Carolina feels about this,”said Jones. “We need to paint the picture of what this means to every one of us.”

The group was reminded that Oct. 14 is the last day to register to vote, and that anyone who still needs to register can do so here. They pointed out that how one person voted determined who won close elections in more than 30 N.C. cities in 2021. Voting matters, they said.