Miles Parks / NPR
North Carolina Senator Rick Horner points to a colorful computer screen.
A co-worker shows and clicks, points and clicks and changes the dimensions of the puzzle to red, yellow and cyan at the request of Horner.
] It is a map of the electoral districts of North Carolina. Horner, a Republican, is shaping democracy – and generally has a ball.
"It's like a video game!" exclaims the senator as another section of voters move into its designated district of the 11th Senate of North Carolina. It moves voters to make the district as compact as possible.
"It's like a video game," laughs the clerk as he moves the mouse, "but with much bigger consequences."
Horner and the rest of the Legislature of North Carolina spent the last two weeks amidst a massive project: redesigning the State House and Senate districts after a panel of three judges unanimously ruled in the State Court that the previous cards were unconstitutional were.
The court ruling stated that the old cards violated the right of citizens to fair elections because Republicans who control the state legislature drew them for an explicit partisan prize. In 2018, the cards helped Republicans win 58% of Senate seats and 54% of seats in the House of Representatives, despite receiving less than half of the total votes in .
The court's ruling was the first such victory in a state court for supporters of counterterrorism since the Supreme Court of the US ruled that year that extreme partiality in the draw of districts is not up to the federal courts
The result is that lawmakers here, in one of the most polarized capitals in the US, are tasked with redrawing borders without relying on the borders that voters are likely to support. As the deadline for Wednesday approaches, this could have a massive national and national impact.
In North Carolina, elections are often decided with gossamer edges. Last week, a special election for the state's 9th congressional district was passed with less than 5,000 votes.
"Tightly divided states are the place where partisans can benefit most from using a Gerrymander," wrote Sam Wang, leader of the Princeton Gerrymandering In his analysis of the House's new map, which is expected to approve of North Carolina Project could provide a preview of the next round of redistribution across the country after the elections and the 2020 census.
] Experts say voters understand redistribution as they did not do after the 2010 elections, and this could lead to calls for more transparency and less bias in a process that takes place every 10 years. A number of states passed laws in 2018 to change their course of action.
"Most Transparent Redistricting Process in History"
In its ruling this month, three higher-level judges in Wake County have decided that all aspects of the cardmaking process must be public – a clear accusation for the back room conversations over which traditionally redistribution negotiations are conducted.
Miles Parks / NPR
After Senate Committee voted on Friday to approve its cards, the republican leaders of the committee and Senate Minority Chairman Dan Blue issued a statement calling the week "the most transparent restructuring process in history." has been.
After a public comment period in the afternoon, the entire legislature is to vote on Monday evening on the Senate cards.
"The cards that have been made in the last few days in this room are fair and impartial", says the legislator
On the House side, legislators encountered further problems. The panel voted Friday night to hand over the cards, but a number of Democrats complained that the Republicans had made unnecessary changes to gain political benefits. The Senate is expected to vote on Monday also on the cards of Parliament.
Despite the assertions of the Senate chairmen, there remains some skepticism as to whether the court will approve of maps approved by lawmakers.
Nathaniel Persily, a professor at Stanford University and a probationer, was appointed on Friday to assist the court in reviewing the cards – and to assist in drawing new cards when the lines of the General Assembly are considered unlawful.
"I would be surprised if this court accepts the cards developed by this General Assembly," new Democrat Senator Michael Garrett said. "I think the behavior of this body and the almost ten years of gameplay have led to much distrust."
This mistrust has intensified in recent months when records of longtime Republican strategist Thomas Hofeller were uncovered that died in 2018. Hofeller was considered a misleading sorcerer, and the acts of The New Yorker and The New York Times New details of its involvement in assisting the legislature of North Carolina in making the maps for such a Republican added to the advantage.
According to The Times, in May 2016, after receiving the news that he had cancer, Hofeller wrote an e-mail to a friend entitled, "I still have time left Demolishing Democrats with More Redistribution Before I Leave, I Have Plans Look for my name on the Internet and you can track the damage. "
Last week, the Republicans tried to dispel some of the doubts that they were impartial by the court Would comply with rules.
Instead of redrawing new maps, they chose "base maps" of models created by Professor Jowei Chen of the University of Michigan, who was actually against them during the trial in which the maps were invalidated Said randomly choose from a subset of these cards.
Here is a video of the NC House in which a lottery ball machine randomly decides which card to use as a starting point for redistributing the discussion. The 5 options were selected as a kind of best-of list of models made by Jowei Chen, an expert from Univ of Mich. pic.twitter.com/nclzjJY1Oo
– Miles Parks (@MilesParks) September 12, 2019
However, a Wang analysis of the Princeton Gerrymandering project found that the house card was still between " half and two-thirds of the partisan advantage that existed in the illegal Gerrymander. "
An analogy to card games, a pile of stacks can not bring fair trade, "Wang wrote," and I have some questions about the deck. "
The whole process took place in the last week amidst extreme gulf and tensions which culminated on Wednesday when Republicans staged a surprise vote over Democrats, with legislators shouting at each other.
Later that day, a Democratic senator picked up a reporter's phone and threw it away.
And throughout the week there were allegations of secret cards and violations of the court order.
"It's a very intense, very biased, very polarized environment that the state has been going through since 2008," said J. Michael Bitzer , a political scientist at Catawba College in North Carolina.
Whether the voters are satisfied at the end of this restructuring round ind, will probably not depend on how the cards look or how transparent the process is, but up to the election results in 2020.
"If your party loses control of either chamber or not, you will continue say that this is a rigged system, "Bitzer said.