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I wouldn't blame you at all if you'd decided to just live under a rock. In case you have and are surfacing for the first time today, you missed the fact that the Supreme Court handed down two impactful rulings that will shape the future of North Carolina for a long, long time.
First, the slightly better news: SCOTUS has disallowed a citizenship question on the 2020 census. However, this is a temporary block. The problem was not actually the question itself; instead, the Court took issue with the reason why the Trump administration wanted the question in the first place. Their rationale for wanting the question was that it would help enforce federal voting laws. Chief Justice John Roberts said in the Court's opinion that "This rationale is difficult to accept. One obvious problem is that the DOJ provided no basis to believe that more precise data would in fact help with Voting Rights Act enforcement."
One obvious problem out of many.
Trump's request to delay the census was thankfully not granted; the government has begun printing Census 2020 questionnaires without it. This is good news for the most vulnerable of us in North Carolina: it means they will be counted, and North Carolina will be that much nearer to getting the resources and representation it truly deserves.
But the census can only count the people it reaches. North Carolina has taken an important step that only 5 southern states so far have taken: to establish a Complete Count Commission to ensure a census count with as much participation as possible. If you'd like to help, visit the Census 2020 NC website and explore their rich library of resources.
SCOTUS delivered us a (temporary) win with the citizenship question, but it did us no favors when it ruled that it was incapable of deciding whether partisan gerrymandering was unconstitutional. Though Chief Justice Roberts admitted that “excessive partisanship in districting leads to results that reasonably seem unjust,” and that gerrymandering is “incompatible with democratic principles,” he defended SCOTUS' lack of involvement by saying that the Court's ruling on this issue would be “an unprecedented expansion of judicial power, given how difficult it is to predict how a district drawn a certain way will affect election outcomes in the future. Given how unprecedented the entire Trump administration has been, that rationalization comes up quite lame.
Justice Elena Kagan's words in the dissenting opinion speak eloquently on their own:
“So the only way to understand the majority’s opinion is as follows: In the face of grievous harm to democratic governance and flagrant infringements on individuals’ rights – in the face of escalating partisan manipulation whose compatibility with this Nation’s values and law no one defends – the majority declines to provide any remedy."
Even though North Carolina will have to endure with its gerrymandered districts for 2020, the fight isn't over. SCOTUS didn't vindicate anyone's state, regardless of what Rep. David Lewis thinks. It only tossed the issue back to the state courts, where there is already a partisan gerrymandering case pending: Common Cause v. Lewis. Despite the "bitter disappointment" of the ruling, Common Cause director Bob Phillips has no intention of backing down on either lawsuit. Good.
There is also a bill moving through the NCGA to reform our redistricting process: HB 140. It would would allow voters in 2020 to decide whether to reform the state’s redistricting laws. Despite widespread support from Democrats, Republicans, and even Republican megadonor Art Pope, it hasn't gotten far in the legislature. Hopefully after the SCOTUS ruling, things will kick into high gear. WRAL introduces 4 other bills designed to fix our broken redistricting process. You can help by contacting your lawmakers and urging them in the strongest possible terms to support these bills.
After you've made your calls– and since nothing is more important in 2020 than secure and fair elections– I recommend reading this long but very well-written piece by Ari Berman in Mother Jones. Then, check the 5 ways you can fight gerrymandering right now on DailyKos, and if you're feeling really froggy, you can join the Grassroots Redistricting Project.
It's not perfect, but SB683 is better than nothing when it comes to addressing a few problems with voting in North Carolina. SB683 would amend the process for using absentee ballots to cut down on fraud, and it would also restore the last Saturday of early one-stop voting. The absentee ballot process would be more secure and confidential, but it's not clear what information would be required of voters when they request an absentee ballot. It's also not clear on how it would handle the new voter ID requirement. But the provision too add back the last Saturday of early voting is a necessary part of the bill and worth contacting your lawmakers about. Urge them to support this bill with the provision for paid postage reinstated. This would make it easier for people to mail in their letters– and their ballots– and hopefully prevent door-to-door ballot harvesting operations that got NC-09 into the mess it's in.
The infamous Hofeller files are embarrassing Republicans left and right– they pop up in both SCOTUS rulings above, as well as the gerrymandering case in state court, Common Cause v. Lewis. So, naturally, Republicans are trying to re-bury that bone. Geographic Strategies, a political consulting firm the late Thomas Hofeller co-founded, filed a motion last month, claiming to be the true custodian and owner of many “highly confidential and privileged electronic files” as well as "trade secrets" and proprietary information on how the company drew districts. Trade secrets?
That's a weird way to spell "gerrymandering".
What's going on at the southern border of the country isn't all that far removed from North Carolina after all. Now that HB370 (requiring sheriffs to comply with ICE) has cleared the Senate and HB135 (punishing cities and counties for establishing sanctuaries for immigrants) is moving through the House, North Carolina is face to face with the nationwide immigration policy: governance by terror.
"House Bills 370 and 135 were crafted to spark... fear: if you drive without a license in order to go buy groceries and you are stopped by police, you may not see your family again; if you report that you have been a victim of a crime to your local police department, your family may be ripped apart."
Contact your state senators to let them know you oppose these bills that will make our state less safe.
Tags: (ICYMI, gerrymandering, census 2020, SCOTUS, redistricting, ICE, voter rights)
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