There's a battle being waged in North Carolina right now which, if lost, could mean very bad things for anybody who's not a white man in that state. The issue at hand is redistricting, the process of redrawing electoral district lines to account for population shifts. As is often the case, the fight over where to draw the boundaries has devolved into quite the partisan clusterfluffernutter.
The Republicans are currently in the majority, and they are trying to maximize their power by redrawing boundaries in their favor. Shocker! But as annoying as it is, it's a commonplace occurrence during any redistricting—and, in fact, Democrats in North Carolina did something similar ten years ago when they were in control. The difference between then and now, however, is that this time around the GOP is trying to cement their power largely by reducing the influence of black voters and doing away with seats held by women.
If this sounds eerily like something from the last century to you, you're not alone. According to the Associated Press, earlier this month dozens of people, backed by the Democrats, have filed a lawsuit to challenge the GOP plans, claiming they illegally "cluster black voters in certain districts, split hundreds of voting precincts needlessly, and cross too many county lines."
The issue of segregation has gotten the most attention, as well it should, because it's a blatant attempt to load all of the state's black voters into a small number of districts, thereby limiting their influence to elect candidates statewide. In a joint statement, the Democratic leaders of the state's Senate and House called them out on it:
The Republicans in the General Assembly who drew these maps came up with a plan that re-segregates North Carolina as much as possible and then hid behind federal law to justify it.
And they're right. If successfully implemented, somewhere close to 50 percent of black voters in the state will be shoehorned into just three congressional districts (out of 13 total), and there will be similar consequences for state seats. The Republicans have claimed they're within the bounds of the law—but perhaps they need to be reminded that just because something is legal doesn't mean it's right!
The other major problem with this redistricting plan is that it unfairly targets women legislators. It drastically reduces the number of women who will hold elected office in the state's Senate and House, collectively called the General Assembly. According to one estimate, if the new boundaries are accepted, 40 percent of Democratic women in North Carolina's General Assembly will face almost certain defeat. That is a big number, y'all.
Of the women in office now, about two-thirds are Democratic, meaning that they would likely be under fire from the GOP regardless of their gender, but it appears their districts are being disproportionately targeted. This week the North Carolina Democratic Party released the video above in an effort to draw attention to this attack on women.
As the video points out, one of the primary weapons in the GOP's arsenal is a process called "double bunking" which is when two incumbents are drawn into the same new district, meaning one of them loses their seat. In the case of the Senate, the redistricting double bunks 12 incumbents into six new districts. In three of these six districts, women incumbents (one Republican, two Democrats) will lose their seats, making way for their male competition. Since there were only six women senators to begin with, the state will now be down to only three—losing half of their female Senate representation in one fell swoop.
It's happening in the House too. There are several instances of double bunking two powerful Democratic women incumbents, and a number of Democratic women have been put into contest with strong incumbent Republican men. In many instances, the new district lines were drawn in shockingly illogical ways—splitting up counties, neighborhoods, and even voting precincts—to ensure that two women candidates would face each other. So, in other words, this is no accidental GOP slight.
All of this is definitely upsetting, but is it illegal? Well, the GOP plans were approved by the Justice Department, and federal attorneys have said they won't lodge any objections to them. But if this litigation succeeds, it could force the maps to be redrawn. Fingers crossed. If the current plan is put into place, it will help consolidate Republican control of the state for the next ten years—when the next redistricting will happen—and maybe even beyond.
That means that for the next decade this one little map will decide who is voting on very important issues like "Who has access to birth control?" and "Who can get married?" It sure would be nice if the interests of all people in North Carolina, not just white men, could be represented in those and many other important debates.