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Our Opinion: Ruthless by design
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OUR OPINION

Our Opinion: Ruthless by design

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North Carolina Republicans are shocked, shocked that anyone would think there’s any blatant partisan racial and political gerrymandering going on in the shameful district maps that they’ve just passed by a party-line vote.

Never mind the pattern of breaking up blue-leaning urban areas into pieces that effectively dilute both Black and Democratic voting power.

Never mind the splitting of Guilford County into three districts.

Never mind the slicing and dicing as well of Wake and Mecklenburg counties each into three districts.

Never mind the calculated divvying of Greensboro into two districts, with the largest piece attached to a heavily conservative district that flows all the way to Banner Elk, the hometown of incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, whose nest the new map would feather with a comfortable GOP majority while shoving first-term Democratic Rep. Kathy Manning of Greensboro into a virtually unwinnable district. (Manning’s district currently contains all of Guilford County and most of Forsyth.)

And never mind that Greensboro is the only city in the state that is split.

Meanwhile, a district containing Forsyth County and Winston-Salem would take in more rural areas as well, from Yadkin County south to Lincoln County, again favoring Republican candidates.

Divide and conquer. Stack the deck. Load the dice. And then shrug and feign ignorance anytime someone calls you on it.

What? Us? Gerrymander?

“I’m not considering political data, electoral data, in the drafting of these maps, so I have no idea what their outcome is going to be,” Rep. Destin Hall, a Caldwell County Republican who is House Redistricting Committee chairman, has said ... with a straight face.

“Do they think we’re stupid?” Steven Greene, a political science professor at N.C. State, told WRAL-TV.

If the maps remain as they are, Republicans would likely win 10 or 11 of the state’s 14 congressional seats in a roughly evenly divided state that Donald Trump won by 1.3 percentage points in 2020. Of those 14, only one is considered highly competitive.

The maps will erode minority voting power as well, in a state that has grown increasingly more diverse. As NC Policy Watch notes, more than a half dozen of Black lawmakers in the General Assembly could lose their seats if the new maps stand.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project, which analyzes district maps throughout the country, gave the Guilford, Wake and Mecklenburg maps an overall “F” rating for blatantly tilting districts to favor Republican candidates.

Beyond the obvious unfairness of it all is the serious harm all this does to representative government. One of the reasons the country is as fiercely divided as it is today, and Congress rarely gets much done, is the extremism encouraged by highly partisan districts. Moderation becomes a cardinal sin, punishable by an hard-left or -right primary opponent.

Still, Republicans insist that they neither used racial nor political data in determining the new lines.

“Since political data was not considered in the map-drawing process, we would have no way of knowing the political leanings of the districts,” Lauren Horsch, a spokeswoman for Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, told WRAL in an email.

Of course not. They didn’t have to. They already knew what they needed to know.

They already were fully aware that Guilford, Wake and Mecklenburg counties were heavily Democratic and that each has large concentrations of Black voters.

Mattingly said the maps used techniques called “packing” and “cracking” to create clear advantages for Republicans.

Packing involves squeezing large numbers of one party’s voters into one district.

Cracking involves scattering the remaining voters into other districts to diminish their impact.

Meanwhile, Republicans are fully aware that this game of thrones blatantly violates what they claim to be their core principles: as in succeeding on one’s merits and letting “the market” drive results.

Clearly they don’t believe they can win a fair fight in fairly drawn districts, so why have one?

Why even pretend to create a level playing field when affirmative action for Republican candidates is so much easier and more efficient?

As they should, the maps will be challenged in court. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by a coalition led by the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters.

To be clear, Republicans are the offending party in North Carolina, but two can play this game. And they do. Democrats are pushing gerrymandered districts in Illinois, Maryland, New York and Oregon.

They did the same in North Carolina for decades when they controlled the legislature. But the Republicans’ ruthless efficiency has taken gerrymandering to new heights — or depths, depending on how you view it.

As for doing the right thing? What’s right got to do with it?

This is about power, pure and simple, and keeping it ... by any means necessary.

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