Thursday, February 03, 2022

It's All On the Line in Raleigh


Chief Justice Paul Newby

I couldn't watch the gerrymandering arguments before the state's Supreme Court yesterday. I mean, I couldn't bear to watch. I knew it was happening and I had the URL to tune in, but instead I started reading a Margaret Atwood novel (Alias Grace) which I quickly realized had become a movie which I've also seen. But the writing! Atwood can skewer human frailty like a striking snake. She describes a woman's face as resembling a pine plank.

But the gerrymandering. Nothing less than political survival -- and hence, survival itself -- hinges on what comes out of that hearing yesterday. Republicans drew new Congressional and General Assembly maps that even they admit constitute an extinction-level event for Democratic office-holders (let alone Democratic values), meant to keep the GOP not only in charge of the General Assembly but overwhelmingly in charge, able to override any governor's veto. And bonus points! The US Congressional maps will help end the hated reign of Nancy Pelosi in the US House.

But do the maps cross the line? And what is the "line." And can you, as a Court, or anyone else fix the line so that we know when someone's crossed it? That's the main argument by the lawyers for the defendants -- Phil Berger and Tim Moore and their lieutenants in charge of NC House and Senate redistricting committees. It's a cat's nature to claw, they say, and you can't adjudicate it, so wear gloves and deal with your own scratches. Cry more, Libs.

For their part, the libs base everything on the NC Constitution's one line, "All elections shall be free and open," with gerrymandering constituting an insult to the word free. If every legislative seat is drawn to foretell and guarantee a fixed outcome, then an election's results are predetermined, and that ain't freedom.

One of plaintiffs' attorneys, Zach Schauf, called gerrymandering "the systematic destruction of majority rule. And that, by the way, is also the test we think this court and the General Assembly should apply going forward: That the party that wins more votes should have at least a fighting chance to win most of the seats” (Will Doran's reporting).

At which argument Republican Chief Justice Paul Newby said the state's constitution guarantees a free election, not a fair one. Those words came from the currently highest level of North Carolina jurisprudence, folks. I read it as a confession.


Anonymous said...

That's not justice.

Anonymous said...

Chief Justice Newby should check out Black's Law Dictionary (bolding mine).

Under the definitions used by the legal professions, NC's gerrymandered maps do not produce "free" elections.


1. Unconstrained; having power to follow the dictates of his own will. Not subject to the dominion of another. Not compelled to involuntary servitude. Used in this sense as opposed to “slave.”

2. Not bound to service for a fixed term of years; in distinction to being bound as an apprentice.

3. Enjoying full civic rights.

4. Available to all citizens alike without charge; as a free school.

5. Available for public use without charge or toll; as a free bridge.

6. Not despotic; assuring liberty; defending individual rights against encroachmentby any person or class; instituted by a free people; said of governments, institutions, etc. Webster.

7. Certain, and also consistent with an honorable degree in life; as free services, in the feudal law.

8. Confined to the person possessing, instead of being shared with others; as a free fishery.

9. Not engaged in a war as belligerent or ally; neutral; as in the maxim, “Free ships ake free goods.”