At a heated hearing on Monday, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina made a last-minute plea to keep in place two congressional districts that were recently struck down by a federal court for racial gerrymandering.
Lawmakers, who spoke to voters at five locations throughout the state via teleconference, said that they would do everything possible to see that the current districts — which must be redrawn by Friday — remained in place. But an appeal to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts for a stay has become uncertain because lawmakers were counting on the support of recently-deceased conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, The News & Observer reported.
“This is the way it’s been,” former GOP Rep. Robin Hayes opined from the video conference in Mecklenburg County. “If you’re in the majority after census, you draw the maps.”
But other voters at the meeting demanded that the state’s long history of gerrymandering come to an end.
“Gerrymandering by any stretch of the imagination is immoral, unethical, dishonest,” speaker Harry Taylor told WMYT.
Vanderbilt University Law School’s Kareem Crayton, an election law specialist, told The Charlotte Observer that lawmakers’ hopes to overturn the federal court’s ruling was dashed by the death of Scalia.
“Bottom line: It appears the proverbial bill for this prolonged and delayed legal fight has now come due for the General Assembly,” Crayton explained. “The short timeline makes it now pretty certain that they will have to draw a map that helps set things right.”
At the hearing on Monday, Democratic state Senate Leader Dan Blue pointed out that Republicans should have started drawing new districts when the court struck down the existing districts on Feb. 5.
“This is all theater,” Blue charged.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D) agreed that the Legislature had created the problem by intentionally using race to gerrymander the districts and then waiting to the last minute to address the problem.
“It’s my opinion you were fully aware that you were incorrectly applying the law,” Butterfield said on Monday. “In a disingenuous way you used a flawed interpretation of the Voting Rights Act for your own partisan political advantage.”
Watch the video below from WMYT, broadcast Feb. 16, 2016.