EDITORIAL: Maps and math and illegal districts

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Nathan Persily

Our state’s illegal districts have been in effect for almost seven years — four election cycles, during which time federal courts and three-judge panels have repeatedly pointed out that there is something un-American about the way we elect our lawmakers.

There are 2.6 million registered Democrats in the state, compared to 2.1 million Republicans. But our General Assembly leans heavily towards the right: 74 of 120 House seats and 35 of 50 in the Senate.

Even factoring in 2.1 million unaffiliated voters, the fastest-growing segment as both sides become disillusioned with their parties, simple math suggests that votes coming from the right carry more weight than those from the left — a violation of the “one-person-one-vote” principal under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

An emphasis in the General Assembly on “traditional” values — demonstrated in moves like HB 2, the attempt to delegitimize same-sex marriages, a play by the Senate that would have taken away Greensboro’s right to draw its own city council districts, or the 2015 law that redistributed sales tax from cities to rural parts of our urban counties — also seems out of balance.

Consider this: Of the 10.2 million people who live in North Carolina, almost 60 percent live in the three largest metro areas of Charlotte, the Triangle and the Triad. And just about everyone who doesn’t live in our cities is entirely dependent on the economies generated therein. Even farmers are reliant on the people they have to feed.

That doesn’t mean rural neighbors don’t have skin in the game; it means that the state of North Carolina is a plurality, with myriad concerns and responsibilities that are best addressed when removed as far from party politics as possible. Politics are the enemy of policy.

We applaud a federal judge’s decision to appoint an independent redistricting specialist — Stanford University Law School professor Nathan Persily — to remake our districts into a mirror rather than a lantern.

On Monday, Republican leaders filed an objection to the court’s latest action against our state’s illegal districts. Their chosen tactic is ad hominem: accusations that Persily is himself a partisan agent who would corrupt the process.

If they can drag this out until February, when candidate filings for the 2018 election begin, they will have accomplished their goal, yet again subverting democracy.