This Was A Good Week For Showing How Bad Voter Inequality Is In The US

This Was A Good Week For Showing How Bad Voter Inequality Is In The US

Two things happened this week that shine light on the extent of voter inequality in U.S., and it’s only Wednesday.

  1. Three federal judges ordered an overhaul of North Carolina’s Congressional districts, ruling on Tuesday that the Republican-drawn map was illegal and unconstitutionally partisan.
  2. Democrat Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris were appointed to the Senate Judiciary Committee, making them just the second and third Black people to be on the committee in its 200-year history.

The North Carolina ruling represents the first time that a federal court has blocked a congressional map because of partisan gerrymandering, Reuters reported:

The Supreme Court has been willing to invalidate state electoral maps on the grounds of racial discrimination, as it did last May when it found that Republican legislators in North Carolina had drawn two electoral districts to diminish the statewide political clout of Black voters. But the justices have not thrown out state electoral maps drawn simply to give one party an advantage over another.”

The state legislator responsible for the 2016 map said he drew it to give Republican candidates an advantage, the judges said.

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“But that is not a choice the Constitution allows legislative map drawers to make,” the court said.

North Carolina has until Jan. 29 to file a proposed remedial plan with the court. Congressional elections are scheduled in November throughout the U.S.

Democrats and those who filed the suit applauded the ruling. Republicans said they’d appeal.

“Today’s ruling is a major victory for North Carolina and people across the state whose voices were silenced by Republicans’ unconstitutional attempts to rig the system to their partisan advantage,” North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said in a statement.

If the North Carolina case is upheld upon appeal it will have far-reaching implications, said Michael Li, a redistricting expert at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice.

“The courts will have signaled that there are, in fact, limits of how far you can go with partisan gerrymandering,” Li told Reuters.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule later this year on Wisconsin’s appeal of a lower court ruling that state Republican lawmakers created unconstitutional state legislative districts with the partisan aim of hobbling Democrats in legislative races.

Republicans in North Carolina could decide to seek a stay of the ruling until the Supreme Court decides the Wisconsin case, said Virginia Tech political scientist Nicholas Goedert.

Here’s another reason why Sens. Booker and Harris made history by being appointed to the Senate Judiciary Committee: it’s the first time that two Black people will be on the committee simultaneously.

The 20-member Senate Judiciary Committee describes its role as critical in overseeing the Department of Justice and agencies under the department’s jurisdiction, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security. The committee also conducts Senate confirmation hearings of federal judges including Supreme Court justices nominated by the president, and presidential appointments in the Department of Justice.

The only other black lawmaker who served on the Senate Judiciary Committee was former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun. The first black woman to be elected to the Senate, she served a single term in the 1990s — about 20 years ago, according to Bustle:

So when Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced his resignation — thereby vacating a seat on the committee — the Congressional Black Caucus quickly came up with two suggestions for his replacement. The CBC encouraged Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to fill Franken’s spot with either Harris or Booker, and to the caucus’ pleasant surprise, Democrats appointed both senators to the committee. Alabama Sen. Doug Jones’ December victory over Roy Moore made this possible, according to Fortune, by limiting Republicans’ advantage on the Senate’s Judiciary and Finance Committees.”

Other civil rights groups including the NAACP, the National Urban League, and the National Action Network also lobbied for a Black lawmaker to be appointed to the committee. They wrote letters in December to Schumer saying that the committee should reflect the diversity of the country and of Congress — where a record number of black senators are now serving.