Politics & Government

Is Supreme Court’s gerrymandering ruling ‘destructive’ or ‘fair’? Here’s the reaction.

Rep. David Lewis comments on Supreme Court ruling

Rep. David Lewis of Dunn, N.C. addresses the Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering and says he is open to discussions about drawing the next maps for 2021
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Rep. David Lewis of Dunn, N.C. addresses the Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering and says he is open to discussions about drawing the next maps for 2021

Thursday’s highly anticipated U.S. Supreme Court ruling on North Carolina’s election maps left conservatives relieved and redistricting reform advocates disappointed.

The court considered whether the Republican-led state legislature violated the Constitution when it gerrymandered the state’s U.S. House of Representative districts to artificially inflate the power of Republican voters. In a 5-4 ruling, the justices said that partisan gerrymandering is beyond the scope of the federal courts’ authority to judge.

After the ruling was reported Thursday morning, politicians and pundits offered their reactions on social media.

In North Carolina, Democrats suggested the ruling will have a devastating effect on whichever party is in the minority after the 2020 election.

The state legislature redraws election maps every 10 years. The party that gains more seats in next year’s election will be able to draw the maps in their favor.

The ruling is a “blow to our democracy and an abdication of duty to the citizens of US by 5 Justices,” tweeted N.C. Sen. Erica Smith, a Northampton County Democrat who is running for U.S. Senate.

N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County, tweeted that the ruling is “one of the worst and most destructive decisions in the history of the court.”

John Burns, a former Wake County commissioner, slammed Chief Justice John Roberts for siding with conservative justices. He referred people to Roberts’ written opinion.

“Even Justice Roberts could not pretend that what the North Carolina General Assembly did with the redistricting was good for democracy in North Carolina. He acknowledged the sickness, just said it wasn’t his problem to solve,” Burns tweeted.

Federal judges recently ruled that Republicans unconstitutionally gerrymandered two North Carolina congressional districts by race. But redrawing districts to benefit the political party in power is nothing new and has been going on for years.

Some national pundits and analysts were similarly dismayed.

Ari Berman, author of “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America,” was also displeased with Roberts.

“This is an absolutely insane opinion by Roberts, saying that no matter how extreme partisan gerrymandering is, courts can’t strike them down,” Berman tweeted, adding that the ruling “Will give a green light to even more extreme gerrymandering in next round of redistricting after 2020.”

Daily Beast reporter Sam Stein said the ruling is a win not only for Republicans, but whichever party holds power in states that allow legislatures to draw election maps.

Stein said it’s “weird to see folks calling this gerrymandering a ‘win’ for Republicans when the actual sides in this dispute aren’t the parties, per se, but the notion of cleaner versus more corruptible elections.”

Daily Kos reporter Stephen Wolf called the ruling “a mockery of democracy (and) the rule of law.” He also posted maps on Twitter to illustrate how they could be drawn to favor Republicans or Democrats.

Conservatives react to Supreme Court ruling

Meanwhile, conservatives expressed relief about the ruling.

When it comes to drawing maps, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan said legislators are more easily held accountable than judges.

“We want elected representatives who are accountable to the people making decisions on district lines, not unelected bureaucrats,” the Ohio Republican said.

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican, suggested the gerrymandering complaint was part of disingenuous “sue till blue” strategy by Democrats.

The Supreme Court ruling, which overturned a lower court’s decision, “is a rebuke of the activist judges who attempt to make laws, win elections and suppress the voices of voters from the bench.”

Local conservative pundit Pete Kaliner tweeted his agreement that the question of “fair maps” is outside the realm of the Supreme Court’s purview.

“The #SCOTUS asked the same question I’ve been asking about #FairMaps activists and Democrats for years... What is a ‘fair’ map? The answer is inherently political,” Kaliner tweeted.

N.C. Rep. David Lewis, a Republican from Harnett County, called the ruling “a complete vindication of our state and of the fair and open process that we ran.

Lewis, who drew the maps with former N.C. Sen. Bob Rucho, once said he drew the Congressional maps to favor 10 Republicans because he couldn’t find a way to make them even more favorable. He called on plaintiffs to drop the case.

Stephen Wiley, House Caucus director for the GOP, suggested the legislators’ reputations needed to be restored.

“Let it be declared that forevermore Constitutionally fair & legal maps will forever be known as Ruchos,” Wiley tweeted.

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Paul “Andy” Specht reports on North Carolina leaders and state politics for The News & Observer and PolitiFact. Specht previously covered Raleigh City Hall and town governments around the Triangle. He’s a Raleigh native who graduated from Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. Contact him at aspecht@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4870.
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