In Don Tortorice’s recent column the Supreme Court’s decision on gerrymandering he cites many issues regarding the cases but not reasonable solutions.

Yes, there is partisanship. Maryland has no Republican representation in Congress; Republicans in North Carolina control 10 of 13 seats with two open at this time. So if we have absolute fairness and North Carolina is pretty much equally divided according to the last election, then there should be about 7-8 Republicans and the same amount of Democrats.  

Then what about the people who are libertarians or those in the Green party? How does this perfect equality affect them? Article I section 4 of the Constitution provides that “the times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.”

Iowa and Arizona seem to have gotten it right. In Iowa districts have been drawn each decade by a nonpartisan legislative staff. In Arizona their voter-approved system has been in place for almost two decades and has been a national model for other states.

Obviously there is a lack of fairness and transparency here in North Carolina and Maryland, but in reviewing many documents, I just don’t see how the U.S. Supreme Court could come up with a decision that couldn’t be worked out with solutions that have already presented themselves in other states that have found reasonable compromise and transparency.

Larry Townsend, Pinehurst

(12) comments

Peyton Cook

Mr. Tomashoff. I recommend you look at the Opinion Section of the Wall Street Journal of yesterday’s issue (09/09/19). The article “Eric Holder’s Unequal Protection” details how his organization is using the courts to redraw maps to favor Democrats.

Jim Tomashoff

Mr. Cook I recommend you look at the news section of the Washington Post wherein you will find an article titled: "Arnold Schwarzenegger: Too many voters live under minority rule. Here's why."

"When a North Carolina court overturned the state’s legislative map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander last week, the unanimous decision provided much more than a needed victory free and fair elections. It was also a valuable reminder: Partisan gerrymandering affects much more than Congress, distorting representation in state houses and senates nationwide.

A stunning number of Americans — more than 59 million — live under minority rule in a state where the party with fewer votes in the 2018 election nevertheless controls a majority of seats in the legislature. Democratic candidates for the North Carolina House and Senate won a solid majority of the statewide vote last fall, but Republicans nevertheless won 54 percent of House seats and 58 percent of Senate seats. “Representatives are choosing voters based upon sophisticated partisan sorting,” a bipartisan panel of judges concluded. “It is the carefully crafted will of the map drawer that dominates.”

But North Carolina is not alone. Five other states — Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania — have minority rule in one or both of their legislative chambers, according to a study from a team headed by Christian Grose of the USC Schwarzenegger Institute. While it will come as no surprise that, in all six of these states, the party with the undue majorities also controlled the map-drawing, the statistics should nevertheless chill all of us who believe in the power of one person, one vote.

The partisan gerrymander in Virginia’s House of Delegates, for example, holds this ugly distinction: Republicans hold a majority of seats — just under 51 percent — with just 44.5 percent of the 2017 vote. That’s the lowest popular vote share for any legislative majority in the nation. Earlier this year, a federal court put a new, neutral map in place for Virginia’s upcoming House election.

Wisconsin, where partisan mapmakers maximized their gains with even greater ruthlessness and efficiency, has received no such remedy. Only 44.7 percent of voters there cast ballots for Republican Assembly candidates in 2018, but the GOP nevertheless won 64.6 percent of the seats. The Wisconsin map was initially overturned by a federal court, but it was allowed to stand after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled partisan gerrymandering “nonjusticiable,” meaning the issue can’t be resolved by judges, at the federal level.

It’s a similar story in Pennsylvania and Michigan. In the Keystone State, Republican state House candidates earned 45.6 percent of the votes but 54.2 percent of the seats. In Michigan, meanwhile, 47.4 percent of voters favored Republicans, but the maps helped the GOP claim just under 53 percent of the seats.

These states’ upper chambers are just as badly gerrymandered. Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina all have senates where the party with fewer votes holds control — which means the entire legislature is dominated by the minority party. Add to that Ohio: In 2018, just over half of the Buckeye State’s Senate seats were up for election. Republicans won 47.2 percent of the vote but 58.8 percent of the seats.

Nothing explains this consistent partisan bias other than the maps themselves. State and federal courts have carefully considered, and rejected, the mythical notion that the state’s political geography or natural clustering — Democrats packed into the cities, Republicans spread more efficiently throughout suburbs or rural areas — provided the GOP edge. Time and again, the judges have pointed out the real culprits: partisan legislators with unfettered control of redistricting, aided by powerful mapmaking software and precise, block-level voting and demographic data on individuals.

Not all partisan gerrymanders result in minority rule. Instead, the maps sometimes create yawning, disproportional gaps between the percentage of the vote earned by a party and the number of seats they win. In six states — Arkansas, Kentucky, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wisconsin — that gap is actually greater than 15 percentage points. In Nevada, for example, state House Democrats won just over 51 percent of the vote but translated that into 69 percent of the seats.

All of this is bad for democracy. Gerrymandering insulates politicians from the voters. It entrenches a party in power, providing a firewall that preserves a majority even when the other side wins more votes. It pushes our politics to the extremes and leads to policy outcomes that a majority of citizens disagree with but remain powerless to do anything about. All Americans, regardless of party, ought to be outraged over the way it debases free elections and fair results."

A growing number are outraged — and taking action. Last fall, residents of Michigan, Colorado, Utah and Missouri voted overwhelmingly to reform redistricting, remove the power from legislators and bring it closer to the people.

But the states that allow such initiatives are dwindling. Politicians don’t always respect the results: In Michigan, for example, the state Senate cut the secretary of state’s budget in an attempt to make it harder to fund the redistricting commission, and Republicans in Missouri’s legislature nearly rolled back the referendum there. The constitutional challenge that worked in North Carolina probably could be replicated in only about half of states, where there are “free and fair” or “free and open” election guarantees in the state constitutions. A genuine solution to this deeply political problem will somehow have to be a political one, and we’re running out of time before the next redistricting, which follows the 2020 Census.

The North Carolina decision helps guide the way: There, the exasperated judges demanded that every line be drawn in public, with the computer screen in clear view and using limited data. Transparency is essential. But so is the deeply American value of majority rule. Here’s another idea: When a party wins more votes, but fewer seats, it triggers an automatic nonpartisan remapping. The 59 million Americans living under entrenched minority rule deserve nothing less."

Peyton Cook

Here we go again. The Democrats are attempting to ignore the Constitution of the United States, which takes precedence over State Constitutions. They believe Clinton should have won the 2016 Presidential election because she more of the popular vote. This is contrary to the Constitution which specifies that elections are decided by the Electoral College. If by popular vote the large population States most on the East and West coasts would control the outcome. The small interior States would have no say.

The same is happening in Congressional elections. The US Constitution clearly gives the power of determining Congressional Districts to the State Legislatures. When the Democrats controlled the Legislature, they drew the lines to maximize Democrat seats. The District which Mel Watt held for a long time was down I-40 from Raleigh to at less Greensboro. When the Republicans gained control of the Legislature in 2010 after rule by the Democrats for over 140 years, exercised their Constitutional power to draw District lines to maximize Republican seats. They did nothing that the Democrats had done for decades. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”. Immediately the Republican map was challenged in the courts and the courts have overruled every District map since then. This is what some Supreme Court members said about courts, even State ones. It is interesting that the Holder organization is only contesting District maps in. Republican controlled States, not Democrat. The Democrats can’t win elections they resort to the courts to change the results of elections.

Peyton Cook

Would you agree that the election of members of Congress are Federal and not State and are governed by the United States Constitution?

Jim Tomashoff

Can't read it Peyton, the Journal only allows subscribers to read their articles. Gerrymandering is wrong regardless of who is doing it. But it has never been done to the degree that Republicans have done so over the last decade, or so. At some point a difference of degree becomes a difference of kind, and the Republicans have crossed that line big-time. I don't think you'll agree, but frankly, I really don't care.

Jim Tomashoff

My good friend Larry is absolutely correct. One suggestion I have made in the past is to base all electoral districts on a rectangle, with a modest amount of variance, say 20% from the 360 degrees in the internal angles of a rectangle. The Governor would select two members of an independent board assigned the task of drawing Federal and State electoral district boundaries. The majority party in each House of the Legislature would select two members, as would the minority party, or parties, in each House. These six members would then select a Chairman, who must get five of the six member's votes to be selected. Then require five votes, including the Chairman's, for each proposed district. In the case of the Federal House of Representatives, the State in question would not be able to elect any Members to Congress until these district boundaries are agreed upon.

Peyton Cook

That would give the Democrats a four to two majority. That would mean no agreement. The United States Constitution clearly gives the State Legislatures the authority to draw Congressional districts. The Court also said that Courts including State courts should stay out of the process.

Jim Tomashoff

You simply cannot read! Nothing gives the Democrats "...a four to two majority." What I proposed would have given the Republicans "...a four to two majority" under a Republican Governor. Moreover, did you simply choose to ignore that it would take five votes to select a Chairperson? And it seems you choose to ignore that it would take five votes, including the Chairpersons, to finalize any proposed electoral district. The Supreme Court decision did not say State courts should stay out of the process. A three-judge court of appeals in North Carolina just found, by a vote of three to zero that the state electoral districts drawn by the Republican majority in both houses of the State Legislature were so patently gerrymandered as to be unconstitutional. See below:

"North Carolina’s political maps for the state legislature are unconstitutional and must be redrawn before the 2020 elections, a court has decided.

A panel of judges struck down the maps Tuesday, in a 357-page ruling that focused on the level of political partisanship used to draw them. The maps were drawn in 2017 to replace previous maps, drawn in 2011, that had also been ruled unconstitutional. Both sets of maps were drawn by North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature.

The judges found that “The North Carolina Supreme Court has long and consistently held that ‘our government is founded on the will of the people,’ that ‘their will is expressed by the ballot.’”

And that fact helped the judges conclude that the maps violated the state constitution because “it is the carefully crafted maps, and not the will of the voters, that dictate the election outcomes in a significant number of legislative districts and, ultimately, the majority control of the General Assembly.”

Tuesday’s decision may be the final word in this legal battle, since at least one top Republican lawmaker said he doesn’t plan to appeal the ruling.

“This is a historic victory for the people of North Carolina,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, one of the groups that sued to overturn the maps. “The court has made clear that partisan gerrymandering violates our state’s constitution and is unacceptable. Thanks to the court’s landmark decision, politicians in Raleigh will no longer be able to rig our elections through partisan gerrymandering.”

The three-judge panel was unanimous in its ruling. The panel consisted of two Democrats — Paul Ridgeway of Wake County and Alma Hinton of Halifax County — and one Republican, Joseph Crosswhite of Iredell County.

“The conclusions of this Court today reflect the unanimous and best efforts of the undersigned trial judges — each hailing from different geographic regions and each with differing ideological and political outlooks — to apply core constitutional principles to this complex and divisive topic,” they wrote."

Peyton Cook

The current Governor is a Democrat not a Republican. I would still give the Democrats a four to one majority. The US Supreme Court did rule that the State Legislatures had the authority to draw District lines by Article I, Section 4. While it did not prohibit court intervention it did say it was not their prerogative.

Jim Tomashoff

You can't read, or do math. The Democrat Governor would pick two members. The Republicans in each house of the legislature would pick one each, that's two. The Democrats in the legislature would pick one each, that two too. Four picked by Democrats, two, not one, picked by Republicans. Those six would select a Chairperson, who would need five members to support his/her selection. All electoral districts drawn, for both federal and state races would require five of the seven members to vote for it, including the Chairperson. The U.S. Supreme Court did not rule that a State's court cannot find existing districting unconstitutional, per the State's constitution, which is what the three-judge panel in North Carolina has done.

Peyton Cook

I did not say the Supreme Court “ruled”. I said that it said courts including Stare should stay out. I should have added conservative judges said that.

Peyton Cook

I reread your solution. Under the current conditions the Democrats would represent FOUR members and the Republicans TWO. FOUR plus TWO equals SIX.

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