This post first appeared in the Herald Weekly at HuntersvilleHerald.com
If you are going to have a good year in politics, have it in a year that ends in a zero.
That’s an axiom Republicans in North Carolina have been benefiting from since the 2010 Tea Party fueled election and the subsequent redistricting required after the decennial census. The axiom holds true because he party in power controls the redistricting process and that’s particularly true in North Carolina where the governor plays no role in redrawing the district maps. In the Tarheel state, the process is totally controlled by the legislature.
To give a sense of how important control of this process can be, one just has to look at the maps available at Ballotpedia.org. According to this data, North Carolina has moved to the right farther and faster than any state in the country – at least when one looks at its elected officials.
Just prior to the 2010 election, the state had what’s called a “trifecta” for the Democratic Party. Meaning, both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion were held by Democrats. After the 2010 election Republicans held both houses of the legislature. The Governor was not up for reelection that year, so the Democrats still held the executive branch.
By the end of the 2012 election cycle, things had changed dramatically. By then, NC had what Ballotpedia calls a “trifecta plus with supermajorities”. Meaning, Republicans held both houses of the legislature with veto proof super majorities, the governor’s office, and control of the state supreme court.
No other state moved from a trifecta of one party to a trifecta plus with super majority of the other party in that time period.
On top of that, the state Congressional delegation moved from 7-6 favoring Democrats to 10-3 favoring the Republicans after the 2014 elections.
Much of that swing has to do with who controlled drawing the maps after 2010. Or, to put it more bluntly, who controlled the gerrymandering of those maps.
Gerrymandering, or the act a drawing district maps to gain political advantage, is a fact of life in politics. Both parties do it to varying degrees. One could certainly argue the Democrats had drawn the Congressional maps going into the 2010 election to their advantage. In that election, the one where Republicans took control of the legislature at the state level, Republicans got 54% of the votes cast in the races for Congress, but walked away with just 6 of the 13 seats. After they redrew the maps for 2012, Republicans more than turned the tables and walked away with 9 of 13 seats after winning less than 49% of the popular vote. They gained 1 more seat for Congress in the 2014 election to get the current 10-3 majority in the delegation.
Is it fair? No. No it’s not. However, it is maybe the best example of the saying “elections have consequences.” Or, said another way, “he who draws the maps, wins.”
Some of those consequences are being felt here in the Lake Norman area as the fallout from the drawing of these maps reaches a crescendo heading into 2016. With Federal courts last month throwing out the maps of 2 NC Congressional Districts - including the long-time worst in the country District 12 running from Charlotte up to Greensboro - we are now facing totally new maps and a primary election day for Congress postponed until June. (Only races for Congress are impacted by this change. All other primaries will occur as planned on March 15th.)
Unless the courts intervene again, North Mecklenburg has moved from the solidly Republican old District 9 to a much more compact, but still solidly Democrat, new District 12. Voters used to having a Republican represent them in Washington will almost certainly have a Charlotte Democrat in that role.
Meanwhile, voters in South Iredell will move from the 9th to the new 13th District. They face a free for all primary on the Republican side with numerous candidates vying for what has suddenly become an open seat leaning solidly Republican.
Are you confused yet? Yes, democracy is messy, but this is really getting ridiculous.