North Carolina & Gerrymandering

The word gerrymander appeared for the first time in 1812. Elbridge Gerry was a former governor of Massachusetts. When members of Gerry’s party created an election district which looked like a salamander, both words were combined and soon became to mean “the action of shaping a district to gain political advantage” and/ or “any representative elected from such a district by that method.”

In North Carolina the time has come to tweak the states voting boundaries, a procedure which the U.S. Constitution requires to be taken every ten years in order to assure that citizens in different districts have a right to representation in the legislative branch that is at least approximately equal.

Although Democrats and Republicans have been shifting the boundaries in their favor for more than a century now, the difference this time is that the GOP is in charge and that race will play a serious factor in the redistricting process. This is due to the fact that the Asian population in the State of North Carolina grew by 83%. In Mecklenburg County, it grew by 100%, whereas the Latino population increased by 111%.

Keeping in mind the states past history of lawsuits about how redistricting was done, it can be perceived as quite challenging for the party in charge to modify the election districts in their favor without attracting new lawsuits.

According to the Voting Rights Act and court cases decided under it, it is forbidden to draw districts in a way which could dilute minority voting strength. In fact, it may even be required to draw districts that contain a majority/minority population if three threshold conditions are met:

1) a minority is large and lives closely enough together so that a comparatively compact district of which the group constitutes a majority can be drawn,
2) the minority group has a history of political cohesiveness or voting as a group, and
3) the white majority has a history of voting as a group sufficient to allow it to generally defeat the minority group’s preferred candidate.

The three conditions were established in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Thornburg v. Gingles (1986), a landmark case from North Carolina concerning the Voting Rights Act.

It is also illegal that considerations of race impermissibly dominate the redistricting process. This may occur when non-compact majority/minority districts are drawn so that traditional redistricting principles, like compactness, contiguity, respect for political subdivisions or communities of interest, are substantially ignored. On the other hand, such redistricting may be justified if it addresses the three threshold factors outlined above. See Shaw v. Reno (1993), another U.S. Supreme Court landmark case arising from North Carolina.

However, lawmakers have to take another factor into account when redistricting the states voting boundaries. For the first time in history, more North Carolinians live in cities than in rural regions. In order to assure that citizens’ rights to representation are (about) equal, this factor also needs to be kept in mind.

To accept public comments on the redistricting process for the State House, State Senate and U.S. Congressional districts, the General Assembly will conduct public hearings at sites across the State of North Carolina.

The public hearing for Mecklenburg County will take place at Central Piedmont Community College, CCPCC Central Campus, Richard Hagemeyer Learning Resources Center, Room LR 035 on Saturday, April 30 at 9:30 am.

(c) Picture: North Carolina State Board of Elections

Best regards
und viele Grüße aus Charlotte
Reinhard von Hennigs