They came, they heard, they folded.
Last week in Greensboro, our state’s illegal districts that have been in place since 2011 got their final day in court in front of a judicial panel charged with cleaning up this mess.
One might think that, because our state government has been operating for six years under districts that a three-judge panel called “unconstitutional,” that selfsame three-judge panel would be inclined to do something about it.
The judges clearly saw through the Republican’s delay-and-deflect gambit — the opinion read, in part: “We agree… that the General Assembly already has had ample time to enact a remedial redistricting plan. We also agree that constitutionally adequate districts should be enacted as quickly as possible to protect the rights of North Carolina citizens and to minimize any chilling effect on political participation attributable to the continued absence of a districting plan in the face of a finding of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.”
They forged a solution the first time they heard the case a year ago: Draw new districts immediately. When the leaders of the NC General Assembly did not follow this ruling, the judges reconvened in November 2016 and ordered new districts by March 2017. Instead of doing that, leadership bought more time by taking the case to the US Supreme Court, which upheld the ruling by the lower court.
The final hearing, held last week in Greensboro, was supposed to rectify this wrong, this corruption of democracy. Common sense indicated that the new districts could be implemented for this year’s election, still several months away.
Instead, after issuing this harshly worded opinion, the ruling itself amounts to little more than a shrug.
Oh, we’ll have new districts, which need to be drawn by Sept. 1, with a 2-week period to file objections.
But these districts will not have elections until 2018, meaning these illegally elected House and Senate members will just be representing different people than they were beforehand, which will have absolutely zero effect on the way they vote and the laws they propose.
No accountability. No punishment. No consequences for the architects of this subversion and the people it benefited. No recourse for the people represented by legislators they did not elect.
Behind the condemnation in their language, the three-judge panel, the last backstop against tyranny, have given yet another gift to those who have subverted our state government.