Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The 'Tough Shit' Ruling in the NC Gerrymandering Trial


I did not want to get out of bed this morning because I knew what was ahead of me. I refrained from posting anything late yesterday about the 3-judge ruling in the gerrymandering trial -- they sided with the defendants, the Republicans in the General Assembly -- because I wanted to read the opinion of the court. It's 260 pages long. I groaned at the thought of slogging this morning through that appalling hoard of sapience.

But then I discovered that Jeffrey Billman had read it for me. The three-judge panel — "two Republicans, one conservative Democrat, all white, and all selected by Republican Chief Justice Paul Newby" — amazingly, agreed with the Democratic plaintiffs' facts and figures which proved that the Republican gerrymander was an extreme example of partisan power-grabbing:

The new US Congressional district map "is the product of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting."

Based upon mathematical analysis provided by the plaintiffs, the State House and Senate plans are extreme outliers that "systematically favor the Republican Party to an extent which is rarely, if ever, seen in the non-partisan collection of maps.”

In other words, the judges agreed with and accepted the Democrats' expert witnesses and their characterizations of the new maps, citing example after example, Billman says, for over 100 pages.

But then (and nevertheless) ... dum dum DUM:

The judges spent the last third of its tome explaining in exhaustive — and often meandering — detail why, even though the plaintiffs had proven their case and were clearly right on the facts, they wouldn’t get in the way of the General Assembly’s Republicans selecting their own voters, even though “judges, just like many of the citizens they serve, do not always like the results they reach.”

Like John Roberts of the US Supremes, these judges essentially say there's nothing they can do about it. I pluck here just a couple of their pieces of rare logic for finding that Republican extreme partisan gerrymandering will go on with their blessing:

The General Assembly has never forbidden itself from drawing legislative districts that benefit its own members. 

In 2019, a three-judge panel found that the legislature’s maps were extreme gerrymanders under the state constitution, though the General Assembly never asked the state Supreme Court to review that decision. That ruling, this three-judge panel said, was “instructive and persuasive,” but not “binding.”

"Instructive and persuasive"? I am persuaded that these three judges are not immune to the human condition of occasionally (?) having their heads up their own asses.

“Despite our disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our State to ridicule," write the judges on their way to justifying the corruption of democratic principles, "this Court must remind itself that these maps are the result of a democratic process” -- meaning that because the Republicans who drew them were all elected to office, then their self-interested power-grabs are by definition within the sacred realm of the "democratic process."

There's much more detail and many interesting side-trails in Billman's account, and having wound up a considerable head of pissed-off steam in his analysis, Billman ends this way:

...if the best we can do is throw up our hands and say that the General Assembly has an absolute, unassailable right to gerrymander itself into power indefinitely, then this state’s democratic institutions are—pardon my language—well and truly fucked.

As is the whole nation if voting rights aren't also protected.

This really remarkable piece of judicial reasoning now goes directly to the Supreme Court on appeal. Immediately. It ain't over.

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