States: Take the 10th

Individuals protect themselves from incrimination by “taking the 5th”, exercising rights granted in the Bill of Rights by the Fifth Amendment. It appears the time has come for states, including North Carolina, to protect their rights by “taking the 10th”.

The Tenth Amendment is a beautifully crafted sentence, if only because it is a case study in word economy. It reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

While the subject of North Carolina’s voting district map, as legally drawn by a Republican majority, is mired in court rulings and shrouded in uncertainty ahead of the 2018 elections due to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling related to a similar legal challenge in Wisconsin, an informed citizen already knows where things are headed.

In this era of monuments to American patriots being taken down, of professional athletes declining to stand in respect for the flag, and core American Judeo-Christian values being dismissed as offensive, who can be surprised by a movement to deny states the right to conduct their own affairs in matters of drawing up voting district maps?

North State Journal political columnist Frank Hill provides useful historical perspective on the evolution of district gerrymandering from an accepted, if not messy, norm left up to individual states, to the current hand-wringing about racially motivated mapping that, suddenly, needs to be taken up by the courts and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court. It is no coincidence that this arises at a time when Republicans have a stronghold on statehouses and Governors’ mansions.

A Wisconsin group that recently navigated a redistricting case to the Supreme Court (a ruling is expected next spring), bases its argument on the premise that redistricting had been “too extreme” and for partisan political purposes. This prompted Hill to ask a question: what is too extreme?

How about a congressional district that was drawn in North Carolina that was 91 percent Democrat by registration in 1984? That was the makeup of the Second Congressional District I ran in during the 1984 campaign as a Republican. Sadly, the same masses of lawyers and advocates who are today running to the Supreme Court to declare gerrymandering as “unconstitutional” in any way, shape or form were not as concerned about it in 1984.

It is no longer 1984, to be sure, as we find radical judges and courts more than willing to dispute what has always been a “specific constitutional duty given to state legislatures,” Hill writes.

Back in June, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling on 28 North Carolina legislative districts. The lower court said these districts had been re-drawn to achieve illegal racial gerrymanders, diluting black votes, reported the Raleigh News & Observer. Which has led to the latest, even more disturbing, development in this story. In late October, a three-judge federal court panel announced it will appoint a Stanford University law professor to review nine legislative districts emerging out of a second re-districting effort by N.C. lawmakers in August.

Naturally, the far-left Southern Coalition for Social Justice applauded the decision to rob state legislators and their constituents of a constitutional right. Its executive director was quoted in news reports actually defending the idea that insertion of a voting rights scholar from California would “result in fair districts for all North Carolinians.”

Hill properly turns to an inconvenient fact to highlight the hypocrisy of Democrats condemning the evil partisan gerrymandering by the Republican majority. His point will be the basis for what should be vehement opposition to allowing a Stanford professor to influence North Carolina’s redistricting.

The North Carolina General Assembly has a long and proud history of drawing partisan gerrymandered districts at the federal and state level long before the Republicans took over control in 2010. All of it by Democrats since at least 1898.

Now that the Supreme Court has waded into debating the merits of gerrymandering, it seems inevitable that the body ultimately will be forced to do something it has expressly avoided for more than 200 years. It will have to decide if the Tenth Amendment still matters.

 

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