February 13, 2016–United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts did not say, “no.” He did not say, “yes.” Instead, he said, “maybe.”
“Maybe” is what Roberts told North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and top state Republican officials when they asked him to sideline a federal court ruling and at least grant a stay on the federal court panel’s order. In that order, the three-judge, federal court panel ruled unconstitutional the boundaries of North Carolina’s 12th and 1st Congressional Districts, and gave the State until Friday, Feb. 19, to draw new districts, according to reports in The Charlotte Observer (2/11/2016, 2/10/2016).
Specifically, Chief Judge John Roberts offered no decision on the NC Republicans’ request for a stay and hearing. Instead, Roberts ruled that the plaintiffs in the Congressional re-districting case have until Tuesday, Feb. 16, to provide a response to the State’s request. That leaves only three days until the lower federal court’s original deadline for the State to redraw the districts, according to The Charlotte Observer (2/11/2016).
Therefore, the Chief Justice did not rule, “yes.” He did not rule, “no.” He ruled “maybe,” with an unrealistic time crunch, to boot.
Yesterday, Friday, Feb. 12th, the NC legislature decided to move ahead with redrawing the two districts to remain in compliance with the original federal court panel’s decision, according to The Charlotte Observer (2/13/2016). That was a wise choice. All of us wait to hear, however, what Chief Justice John Roberts will rule on Tuesday or soon after on the State’s request and appeal.
I think Justice John Roberts should grant a stay on the enforcement of the federal court panel’s ruling, but should not grant a hearing and appeal with the US Supreme Court. I hear the NC State officials’ complaint that the quick timing of the decision would throw this election into disarray, since it would force the State to move too quickly on the redrawing of the districts. Therefore, I think the Chief Justice should allow the decision to take effect immediately after the primary election: Roberts should give the State one month, until April 15th, 2016, to redraw the districts. That would be substantially more time than the two weeks originally provided by the panel, more than the one week that the State legislature is taking and using, and would not fall in the middle of a primary election. The new districts should be in place, however, by April 15th, I think, which would provide ample time for the general election to be held with the new district boundaries.
The current Congresswoman for the 12th District, Alma Adams, is running for re-election this year. She offered no opinion on the federal court decision at this time, but instead, she focused her attention on continuing to do her job as a Congresswoman and on running her re-election campaign.
“We don’t know what the impacts of this decision will be yet, but for now I am concentrating on doing my job as the Congresswoman for the 12th District,” Alma Adams said in a statement, “and running a campaign on the basis of my strong record of doing what is right for North Carolina and my District.” Sam Spencer, campaign manager for Congresswoman Adams, provided the statement.
Regardless of the outcome of all the current litigation, I support and endorse Congresswoman Alma Adams, a Democrat, for re-election to Congress in the 12thDistrict. I agree with her, and think she is good for the people of North Carolina, serving as our representative in Washington.
|Congresswoman Alma Adams|
Which brings us back to the merits of the case before the Chief Justice. I think the reality is obvious, and should not need to be heard by the full Supreme Court. The current party breakdown of NC’s congressional delegation is 10 Republicans and three Democrats, according to Jim Morrill of The Charlotte Observer(2/10/2016). That represents a lopsided number. Part of that must be attributed to the current political climate in North Carolina, definitely trending conservative and Republican, but part of that partisan representation may be due to Congressional maps that favor exactly the breakdown and representation we currently have.
Both the 12th and the 1st are represented by African-American Democrats, for example, and with the exception of one other seat held by a Democrat, all other seats are held by Republicans. That is precisely the kind of lop-sided representation that the current Congressional district maps in NC encourage.
The numbers follow race, as well. The Democratic Party vote is weakened across districts, and the African-American vote is concentrated into these two districts, both represented by African-American officials. These results indicate the diluting of the African-American vote out of nearby districts, and into the 12thand the 1st.
I think these two districts should be redrawn with sensible, obvious geography and politics as top concerns.
For now, though, I think the numbers spell out an obvious case. We need to redraw these maps in a timely fashion with as little disruption to the current election as possible. I think there is no need for the full Supreme Court to explore all of these issues yet again, however, particularly for the 12thDistrict, which, according to Jim Morrill of The Charlotte Observer, has already been heard by our top court at least four times.
Leave it alone, I would argue. Delay the federal court panel’s ruling to make it more palatable to enforce by the current NC government, and otherwise, leave it alone. Let the ruling stand without further appeal. The merits of the case are obvious. This federal court panel has the right time for North Carolina in this ruling, and its order should stand.