By Leslee Kulba- Democracy! Democracy! Populists love democracy so much, they ignore the fact they live in a constitutional republic. Even so, the idea of one person-one vote, if only for representatives instead of every single issue, would be beautiful for an educated populace – except for all the mud-slinging, fake news, phony promises, and Matryoshka dolls of corruption.
But even Democrats despise democracy. Jill Stein is calling for a recount, as did Al Gore in the hanging chad business back in 2020. More locally, incumbent governor Pat McCrory (R) requested a recount, having fallen only 7400 votes short of Roy Cooper (D). Chuck Stuber (R) has filed a similar request after falling only 4300 votes short of Beth Wood (D) in the race for state auditor. Statutorily, any Council of State race can be subject to a recount if candidates are within 10,000 votes of each other. McCrory had been winning during election night until 94,000 controversial votes for Cooper, from Durham County, showed up late.
Further messing the waters, the Civitas Institute has filed a federal lawsuit requesting the final ballot count in the state be delayed. Civitas argues more than 90,000 people took advantage of the state’s same-day registration. The problem is, laws on the books require the state board of elections to verify addresses by mailing voter registration cards. If the cards are returned as undeliverable, the applications to vote are voided. It normally takes a month to complete the process. A 2015 study found same-day applications were over seven times more likely to fail than traditional applications.
The General Assembly attempted to get rid of same-day registration, which has been practiced in the state since 2007. But earlier this year, the package of legislative reforms aimed at reducing voter fraud, which included voter ID requirements, were overturned by the Fourth Circuit Court. Currently, it appears the Civitas action could prove irrelevant, as allegations of fraud are expected to delay certification of the vote counts beyond thirty days.
But this only leads to the latest problem, which some pundits view as judges doing all the voting. Last week, a US District Court ruled in favor of litigants alleging racist gerrymandering in a case that has been working its way up the appeals process. The plaintiff was listed as individual citizens, but the suit was introduced by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, whose mission includes protecting minority voting rights, defending the undocumented from discrimination, and ensuring justice for the environment as well as minorities arrested for crime.
The court order was follow-up for an August 11 opinion that ruled district lines were unconstitutionally gerrymandered with “surgical precision” to the detriment of “blacks;” but it imposed no deadline for redrawing them. Since that finding fell just before the November election, the court instructed the state to proceed with that election, but enjoined it to conduct no further elections until a satisfactory map could be completed. The plaintiffs prayed the court to require new districts to be drawn by January 25, 2017 and order a new election for legislative seats impacted by the unconstitutional districts.
The defendants claimed the date was too early, so the court compromised. The order, which is being appealed to the US Supreme Court, requires the new legislature to present the plaintiff with a new map for review by March 15 at 5:00 p.m. They must also file transcripts of all legislative hearings and floor debates, a description of the process including statistics used and names of all involved, and an explanation of how race played into the creation of any district in which the BVAP (black voting-age population) exceeded 50 percent.
What’s more, the term of any legislator elected in an unconstitutional district will be shortened to one year, and a special primary and general election will be held in 2017. For better or worse, instead of the one- and two-year residency requirements, candidates need only establish residence the same day they file for office. Those winning the 2017 election will then serve a one-year term. Nineteen house districts, and nine senate districts were ruled out-of-line. It is likely apportionment requirements will force districts adjacent to the unconstitutional ones to also be subject to a 2017 re-election.
But it doesn’t stop there. December 5, the US Supreme Court will hear appeals in cases alleging racist gerrymandering in both Virginia and North Carolina. The NC case concerns lines affecting two Congressional districts drawn in 2011, after the last Census. The superficial assumption is based on a “Medieval superstition” that people blindly vote for those who share their face color, but the underlying motives are clearly a struggle for partisan power.
Pundits like attorney Daniel Horowitz are demanding that Congress assert itself and return redistricting litigation powers exclusively to the states. But then, most state judges are elected.