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Sen. Tarte: Giving Appointees Districting Power "Absolutely Absurd"

Due to concerns that were echoed by the judiciary along with citizens across North Carolina and the United States, the North Carolina legislature passed redrawn maps to correct perceived gerrymandering.

While it is difficult — some say impossible — to ascertain whether a district is gerrymandered, the legislature complied with public opinion and brought forth a reformed map.

Regardless of the legislature’s hard work, the judiciary still had complaints. A panel of three unelected judges took offense to nine districts in particular, which they claimed exhibited racial bias, and appointed a Stanford professor to redraw the lines.

The professor, Nathaniel Persily, will be paid $500 an hour to reconstruct the nine districts. He has previous experience drawing lines in four states: New York, Maryland, Georgia, and Connecticut.

Senator Jeff Tarte (R-Cornelius)

At an event on Saturday evening, Jeff Tarte, a North Carolina state senator, announced his contempt for the prospect of an unelected official drawing the lines. He explained that the idea of Persily, who isn’t even a North Carolinian, constructing the map is “absolutely absurd.”

Tarte’s point is correct.

The duty of redistricting, which occurs based on the census once every decade, is supposed to performed by the state legislature. This is established by Article II of North Carolina’s Constitution, which the legislature has consistently abided by.

Some say that system is biased because the majority party draws the lines in a way that is favorable to them. Since the Republicans are in control, it is said that they are drawing the line in such a fashion that Democrats cannot win.

However, this tends to be yet another excuse from a party trying to find excuses for their crushing defeats in the 2010 U.S. House elections and the 2014 U.S. Senate elections. They were the biggest purveyor of gerrymandering for 40 years, which arguably allowed them to control the House from 1954 to 1994.

Justice Antonin Scalia

I say “arguably” because I agree with the forefather of modern Constitutionalism in the judicial branch, the late Antonin Scalia. He said that the fairness of redistricting isn’t a “judicially manageable standard” — fairness is truly in the eyes of the beholder.

For one, gerrymandering occurs naturally. Republicans are generally in suburban and rural areas, while Democrats are typically clustered in cities. It has little to do with racism and partisanship and more to do with simple geography.

Additionally, the oddly shaped districts that are usually attributed to gerrymandering are in fact representative of communities, which can have naturally unusual structural appearances.

Allowing one professor (especially one who teaches at a college that has been described as being “very liberal”) to draw the lines in a state that tilts to the Republicans is undemocratic. The process of districting by the legislature was established for a reason: the people pick their state representatives and senators, who are up for reelection every two years, and they in turn draw maps based on the census.

This system gives the people power over their maps instead of enabling unelected judicial appointees to do so. The appointment of Persily, as Tarte explained, sets an absurd precedent.