// The Comment #3: Gerrymander


The Comment is a weekly digest of the stuff that grabbed my attention or occupied some part my mind during the past week. Normally, it’ll be one thing that’s really been on my mind, followed by a handful of things that I found interesting. The Comment will be published each Monday at 10:30AM EST. 

Thanks for reading.

## Redistricting in North Carolina

North Carolina is home to some of the worst racially gerrymandered congressional districts in the nation.

Seriously, check out NC Congressional District #12 (NC-12 for short).

NC Congressional District #12 – Source: NCSBE

If you are unfamiliar with NC-12, it follows I-85 from Greensboro to Charlotte (hitting Winston Salem) and contains large populations of African-Americans and other minorities.  It’s no secret that African-Americans and minorities tend to vote for Democratic candidates.  This effectively creates a voting district that is overwhelmingly Democratic leaning.  This is called “packing” (where you pack all the voters from one party into as few districts as possible) and is bad because it wastes votes.  A wasted vote is every vote more than is required to elect an official into office.  For example, if candidate A beats candidate B, 78-22 (only need 51 votes to win), there are 49 (27 wasted votes for candidate A and 22 wasted votes for candidate B).  A wasted vote isn’t necessarily a bad thing and there are wasted votes in most elections.  However, a system where large quantities of votes are consistently wasted results in a diminished voice for those voters.  In gerrymandered districts, there tend to be a lot of wasted votes.

Another strategy used by those wishing to gerrymander is a tactic called “cracking” where the desire is to split up a concentrated voting bloc (ie. urban Democrats into many Republican leaning, rural districts).  This dilutes the voting power of the “cracked” bloc.  Both “cracked” and “packed” districts lead to situations where a legislative chamber is more extreme leaning despite demographics that state otherwise. I should add gerrymandering is not illegal and is an effective political tactic to extend or magnify (or reduce) the legislative strength of a political party.  It becomes very problematic when those tasked with drawing congressional districts explicitly desire to diminish the voting power of a group of people because of race or ethnicity.

The North Carolina GOP has a hard time drawing districts that aren’t racially gerrymandered.  They recently redrew congressional maps that do not satisfactorily eliminate the racial gerrymander exacerbated in the maps submitted in 2011.

Federal judges announced their plans on Thursday to ask a Stanford University law professor to look at nine North Carolina legislative districts as they weigh the constitutionality of election maps adopted in August.

The news came in an order filed in federal court by the three-judge panel asked to decide whether the new maps correct 28 districts drawn in 2011 and later found to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.

The judges raised questions about seven state House districts and two state Senate districts that “either fail to remedy the identified constitutional violation or are otherwise legally unacceptable.” One Senate district was in Guilford County; the other was in Hoke and Cumberland counties. The House districts were in Wake County, Mecklenburg County and Guilford County.

As unaffiliated (also known as independent) voter, I’m of the opinion that a non-partisan independent commission should be the one drawing our congressional districts.  The North Carolina GOP is unable to draw suitable voting districts, so the federal courts have decided to have a handful of districts analyzed (and possibly redrawn) by Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford professor who has drawn districts for other states.  I just wanted to highlight this step in a journey that, hopefully, leads to more equitable maps.  More equitable maps would help North Carolina to return to a more moderated state of governance that has been absent for some time.

Stanford law professor could help draw NC legislative districts

// In Rotation: Uncivil

The Uncivil podcast, from Gimlet Media, explores interesting and untold stories about the American Civil War.

A new history podcast from Gimlet Media, where we go back to the time our divisions turned into a war, and bring you stories left out of the official history.

The latest episode, “The Spin”, goes deep into how the defeated Confederacy effectively spun a story of treason and protection of a barbaric slave system into one of pride, “state’s rights”, and the continuation of near slavery conditions for freed African-Americans.

// The iPhone X w/ TechMeOut

The iPhone X went on sale over the past few weeks.  I’ve been checking out a few reviews because I’m interested in the tech.  I like this one from YouTube creator, TechMeOut.

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