Thursday, December 2, 2021

Blind county change? Democrats are distrustful of GOP cards

RELEI, North Carolina (AP) – Ten years ago, North Carolina Republicans changed their legislatures to help their party, following a federal court order that illegally stripped black voters of their right to political representation. The state court later ruled out the maps drawn by the Republicans as based on sheer commitment.

So, as the GOP-controlled legislature embarks on its final round of redistributing constituencies this year, he has pledged not to use race or bias data to draw political lines. However, the cards offered by the Republicans will strongly tilt in their party’s favor. Several publicly issued congressional cards weaken Democratic voices by dividing the state’s largest city, Charlotte – also its largest African American city – into three or four U.S. House of Representatives districts and giving the Republican Party an at least 10-4 lead in the state, which Donald Trump narrowly narrows down. won last year.

As the border redistribution process picks up steam every ten years, North Carolina is one of at least three states where Republicans say they draw maps without looking at race or party data. But these cards are still heavily favored by the Republican Party.

Democrats and civil rights groups are distrustful, noting that veteran lawmakers don’t need a spreadsheet to know where constituents of different races and different parties live in their state. In addition, under certain scenarios, the Voting Rights Act requires the drawing of constituencies in which the majority of voters are racial or ethnic minorities.

“This is the first round of district reallocations I’ve ever heard of,” said Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Foundation, which is suing Texas Republicans over cards the GOP said party, drew without regard to racial data. “I suspect they are trying to create a defense for the trial. Because they know the race data – they know where the Black community lives. They know where the Latin American community lives. “

Jason Torchinsky, general counsel for the National Republican County Redistribution Fund, said ignoring racial information is appropriate in certain circumstances, such as in the cases of North Carolina and Texas.

“It depends on where you are,” said Torchinsky.

Legislative lines are often a brutal party struggle, because any party that controls the process can create districts to maximize the influence of their constituents – and spread opponents so wide that they cannot gain a majority.

In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal courts cannot overturn unfair cards on the basis of bias. But state courts can still annul cards for undue bias, and race remains the legal guiding thread in the redistribution of districts.

If cartographers explicitly try to weaken voters’ power on the basis of race, they could violate the US Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law. But the Voting Rights Act requires them to take into account race if a state conducts a “racially polarized” vote in which white people consistently vote against candidates supported by a racial or minority ethnic group. Then, cartographers must create a constituency in which that minority constitutes a majority or a majority of voters, so that they can elect their preferred candidates.

Republicans complain that they cannot win.

“This is really a mystery, and it has been for the last decade for the GOP because when we look at the race, we were told we shouldn’t, and those cards were destroyed,” said North Carolina Senator Paul Newton, who is the co-chair of the state’s redistribution committee. “Now that we are not looking at race, the Democratic Party is telling us, ‘Oh, you have to look at race.”

North Carolina’s legal struggle to reallocate constituencies is part of why the new racial blind approach has taken root.

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The Republican-controlled legislature has complete control over the redistribution of districts; her cards cannot be vetoed by her Democratic governor. A federal court in 2016 found that North Carolina Republicans incorrectly squeezed black voters into two congressional districts to reduce the number of African American votes elsewhere. He ordered to redraw the map. This updated map formed the basis of the 2019 Supreme Court case.

But just two months later, a North Carolina state court found that the GOP advantage in some of the state’s redrawn legislative maps still violates the state’s constitution. Based on this and other ordinances, Republicans once again redrawn the maps in late 2019, this time stating that they do not look at racial or party data and have passed a legal review.

Then, in August, the legislature formally passed a rule that it would not take race or bias into account in its final blueprint, which will begin after the U.S. Census Bureau releases data on population changes over the past decade. Lawmakers noted that in a grand trial of the previous decade, a federal court found that the state did not conduct racially polarized voting and did not require much attention to racial data.

Democrats and civil rights organizations actively objected. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice has written a letter to Republicans warning that they will strip black and Hispanic voters from voting rights. “They’re not listening,” said Allison Riggs, program manager for the Voice Rights Group.

Other states controlled by the Republican Party have followed North Carolina’s lead. Over the past five decades, Texas has been found to have violated federal law or the U.S. Constitution in redistributing constituencies, including by reshuffling black and Hispanic voters. This time, the Republicans who control the state legislature said they would not consider racial data, and their lawyers said it was okay.

“I have stated this and will say it again — we drew these maps blindly,” said Senator Joan Huffman, the Republican who drew maps of the state, at a Senate hearing.

While nearly all of Texas’ population growth has come from Hispanics, African Americans, and Asian Americans, the maps do not create any new neighborhoods with a majority of blacks or Hispanics. This latest omission is at the heart of Latin American civil rights lawsuits last week when Texas approved its cards.

“The only time communities of color can get justice is when they visit the courthouse,” said Democratic MP Rafael Anchia, chairman of the Mexican and American Legislatures.

Ohio Republicans are also in litigation over their state legislative plan, which they say was drafted without any racial or biased data. “Using races in areas for painting is illegal. This is a violation of federal law, ”State Senate President Matt Huffman told reporters last month.

Ohio Republicans stated that while they did not use guerrilla data, they were targeted anyway by several anti-gerrymandering communities and groups for drawing a guerrilla map.

“The way the map works really skews the results of party action in Ohio,” said Freda Levenson, Ohio ACLU’s legal director, one of the plaintiffs. “It is very likely that they did indeed use guerrilla data.”


Riccardi reported from Denver. Associated Press authors Acacia Coronado of Austin, Texas, and Julie Carr Smith of Columbus, Ohio contributed to this report.


Anderson is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that directs journalists to local newsrooms to cover hidden issues.

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