NC GOP reps oppose fair voting maps for fear of ‘confusing’ their donors

Of all the arguments trotted out to justify gerrymandered voting maps, one offered by North Carolina’s congressional Republicans is among the most bizarre – and the most cynical.

This month a panel of federal judges handed down a landmark decision in Common Cause v. Rucho, ruling that the legislature unconstitutionally gerrymandered North Carolina’s congressional districts along partisan lines and ordered the districts be redrawn.

That ruling prompted a request from North Carolina’s Republican congressional delegation asking the US Supreme Court to keep the gerrymandered maps in place, citing concerns about their fundraising ability. Really.

In the brief, the GOP representatives say drawing new (non-gerrymandered) congressional districts would “have a chilling effect on contributor’s willingness” to fund their campaigns and cause “confusion”among their donors.

“There’s no question that candidates running for Congress need money to wage their campaigns,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. “But it’s insulting to the people of North Carolina that a majority of our congressional delegation seems more concerned about their donors than they do ensuring voters have fair elections.”

Some background on the case: In 2016, a federal court ruled that the Republican-controlled NC legislature had unconstitutionally gerrymandered two of the state’s 13 congressional districts along racial lines and ordered that new districts be drawn.

Republican legislative leaders responded by claiming they would craft a new congressional map by ignoring race entirely, and instead draw a blatant partisan gerrymander, as Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) stated publicly during a redistricting committee meeting in February of 2016.

“We want to make clear that we … are going to use political data in drawing this map,” Lewis said at that time. “It is to gain partisan advantage on the map. I want that criteria to be clearly stated and understood.”

That blatant gerrymander by the legislature led Common Cause to file suit. On Jan. 9, a panel of federal judges struck down the legislature’s partisan gerrymander and ordered the congressional maps be redrawn.

Republican legislative leaders then asked the US Supreme Court to pause that order pending an appeals process, which was granted on Thursday.  North Carolina’s GOP congressional delegation joined that request, fretting over their donors possibly being confused by newly drawn districts, preferring to keep in place what legislators admitted is a partisan gerrymander.

“The federal district court rightly ruled that the legislature’s extreme partisan gerrymander violates the constitutional rights of voters,” Phillips said. “Our congressional representatives should focus on serving the people of North Carolina under fairly drawn districts, instead of worrying about their financial backers.”

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