Legislative News by Nelda Holder –
It’s Autumn. The leaves are falling. The sky is clearing. The air is chilling. And the voters are voting.
Many citizens of Asheville exercised their right to the ballot at early voting, which ended October 7, to select the primary candidates for mayor and City Council who will move on to the general election in November.
The Municipal General Election, which applies to all municipalities in the county except Biltmore Forest, will be held November 7, 2017.
For questions about voting, contact the Buncombe County Election Services office at (828) 250-4200.
Groups (still) challenging election maps in federal court
The case of Common Cause v. Rucho is moving forward after a panel of federal judges refused to put it on hold as requested by attorneys for the GOP majority in the NC General Assembly. At issue is whether the redrawing of congressional district election maps was a partisan gerrymander—a deliberate attempt to weight districts to favor electing candidates from a preferred party. The suit was brought by the state chapters of Common Cause and the League of Women Voters (see below).
A separate suit by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice also challenges the state’s new (court-ordered) district plans “because they do not remedy all of the constitutional violations previously found by the court,” according to the Coalition’s press release. “They failed to cure the illegal use of race in several areas of the state. It is now the Court’s responsibility to fix the problem,” said Anita Earls, executive director and lead attorney in the lawsuit. Earls noted that the state legislature “violated the North Carolina Constitution by redrawing districts in Wake and Mecklenburg counties that should not have been touched.”
It has been almost eight years since the 2010 census kicked off the redrawing of legislative district lines in the state. As many commentators are now pointing out, before these lawsuits are resolved, we may have spent all 10 years of the cycle voting under unconstitutionally gerrymandered district lines.
Getting to walk the line
The League of Women Voters, which was founded nationally after women won the right to vote in 1920 (the 19th Amendment, for those of you planning to attend the Constitution Study below), holds a national position that political and racial gerrymandering “undermines representative democracy by allowing officials to select their voters rather than voters to elect their officials.”
To that end, the local LWV is hosting a “Gerrymander 5K” Walk/Run on Saturday, November 4, that will follow the current (and wiggly) congressional district line that splits West Asheville along Haywood Road and sections of Martin Avenue, Balm Grove Place, Florida Avenue, Dorchester Avenue, Crown Street, Brucemont Avenue, Brucemont Circle, and Louisiana Avenue. The route was chosen specifically to demonstrate the erratic nature of the redistricting lines between Congressional Districts 10 and 11 in Asheville/Buncombe County. Information about the event is available at lwvab.org.
“We the People ….”
With gerrymandering and a number of other constitutional issues front and center in current news, a timely opportunity to brush up on the U.S. Constitution is taking place locally this month and next.
“We the People” is a six-week study of the fundamentals of the Constitution, covering the document’s history and its far-reaching elements such as legislative power, executive power, due process, fundamental rights, and the protection of expression. The study has been organized by the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County, and local attorney Bruce Elmore Jr. will lead the discussions.
The study is being cosponsored by several civic organizations, including the YWCA, AAUW Asheville, and the WNC chapter of the ACLU. The six sessions will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the YWCA, 185 S. French Board Ave., on the following Tuesday evenings: October 3, 10, 17, 24 and November 7, 14. All sessions are open to the public at no charge.
Nelda Holder is the author of The Thirteenth Juror – Ferguson: A Personal Look at the Grand Jury Transcripts. Read Holder’s blog, www.politicallypurplenc.com