This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

North Carolina Ordered by the Court to Redraw its Gerrymandered Districts -- UPDATED

You may recall that two months ago the U.S. Supreme Court sent back to the U.S. Court of Appeals a ruling that North Carolina's Congressional District boundaries had been gerrymandered in order to favor Republican candidates. The obvious evidence of this is that 10 of North Carolina's 13 Congressional Districts are held by Republicans, despite the fact that Republican candidates had won only 53% of the overall popular vote. The Supreme Court suggested that perhaps the parties bringing the lawsuit forward didn't have the standing to do so. This week the lower court rejected that idea, as the NYTimes reported:
In a lengthy ruling on Monday, the panel reached largely the same conclusion that it had in January. And the judges agreed that the plaintiffs in the case — voting-rights advocacy groups and residents of each of North Carolina’s 13 districts — had standing to bring the suit.
The judges left open the possibility that they could order new maps to be drawn before the 2018 election, either by the North Carolina General Assembly or by a special master appointed by the court.
The ruling sets up a delicate tactical question for the Supreme Court, which has never ruled a partisan gerrymander to be unconstitutional, passing up three separate opportunities to do so in its last term. With the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the end of July, the court is now divided between four conservatives who have expressed skepticism about the court’s ability to tinker with political maps, and four more liberal justices who have argued that it has that ability.
As you might imagine, this turn of events so close to the midterm elections in November has "plunged North Carolina politics into disarray" since no one knows what the district boundaries will be and thus who the viable candidates might be. Now, keep in mind that the U.S. Constitution does not require a person to live in the District they represent, but most voters are going to expect that they will. And, of course, redrawn boundaries will only be good until the 2020 census numbers are finalized late in 2020, at which time the new census figures will likely lead to new boundaries...and probably new lawsuits.

UPDATE:
Politico has just reported that the Federal Court will not require North Carolina to adjust its Congressional District boundaries prior to this year's midterm election coming up in November.
"Having carefully reviewed the parties’ briefing and supporting materials, we conclude that there is insufficient time for this Court to approve a new districting plan and for the State to conduct an election using that plan prior to the seating of the new Congress in January 2019. And we further find that imposing a new schedule for North Carolina’s congressional elections would, at this late juncture, unduly interfere with the State’s electoral machinery and likely confuse voters and depress turnout," Judges James Wynn Jr., William Osteen Jr. and W. Earl Britt wrote in a joint order.

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