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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/4/19

North Carolina Has Won a Huge Victory in the Fight Against Rigged Elections

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From The Nation

There is now hope that savvy legal and political strategies really can begin to upend gerrymandering across the country.

North Carolina Gerrymander Ruled Illegal. A federal court ruled that North Carolina Republicans illegally drew up U.S. congressional districts in the state to benefit their party.
North Carolina Gerrymander Ruled Illegal. A federal court ruled that North Carolina Republicans illegally drew up U.S. congressional districts in the state to benefit their party.
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Short of canceling a scheduled election, or suspending a duly elected legislative body (as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is currently attempting to do), partisan gerrymandering is as stark an assault on democracy as you will find. And since Republicans used the advantage they gained in the 2010 "wave" election to lock in legislative majorities across the country, gerrymandering has proven to be the most damaging of their assaults -- especially in North Carolina.

For the better part of a decade, advocates for fair elections have battled in the courts to overturn Republican-drawn maps for state legislative and congressional districts in the Tar Heel State. They have had wins and losses, including the US Supreme Court's heartbreaking 5-4 decision in June, which held that "partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts."

After the high court's decision, foes of partisan gerrymandering shifted their focus to state courts. And on Tuesday, they scored a victory that's significant not just for North Carolina but for the many states where biased maps have compromised free and fair elections. The panel of three judges ruled unanimously in Common Cause v. Lewis that the Republican-control North Carolina General Assembly had violated the state constitution when it gerrymandered legislative maps with an eye toward thwarting serious competition for state house and senate seats. The judges order that the districts be redrawn in time for the 2020 election.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, noted after the 2018 election that "while Democrats received 50 percent of the votes for the N.C. Senate, they received only 42 percent of seats. And while they received 50.5 percent of the votes for the N.C. House, they received only 45 percent of seats."

"This is a historic victory for the people of North Carolina," declared Bob Phillips, the executive director of Common Cause in North Carolina. "Thanks to the court's landmark decision, politicians in Raleigh will no longer be able to rig our elections through partisan gerrymandering."

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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