BREAKING: Judge Slams The Brakes On Brazen Republican Power Grab
A Momentary Victory For Democracy Against Republican Power Grabs In North Carolina
A judge halted a brazen power grab by the Republican party in North Carolina, Reuters reported Friday.
Earlier this month, the Republican party, which holds a veto-proof minority in the state legislature, rammed through bills that stripped the incoming Democratic Governor Roy Cooper of the power to appoint a majority to the state elections board. These actions came after outgoing Republican Pat McRory looked for excuses not to concede the race after losing by about 10,000 votes.
Republicans’ attempt to put control of the elections board in the hands of the legislature is a proxy battle in a larger war for control of the state. In November, a federal court ruled that North Carolina’s state districts were so hopelessly gerrymandered along intentionally discriminatory lines that the state must redraw districts and hold special elections in 2017. The Republicans’ attempts to strip the Democratic governor of power prompted an international group to describe North Carolina as less of a democracy than many developing countries struggling to implement democratic reforms.
The laws that Republicans passed in a special session were set to take effect on Sunday. Cooper sued to stop the laws from taking effect, arguing that they were “unconstitutional.” In a statement, Cooper said,
“This complex new law passed in just two days by the Republican legislature is unconstitutional and anything but bipartisan,” Cooper said in a statement. “A tie on a partisan vote would accomplish what many Republicans want: making it harder for North Carolinians to vote.”
A Wake County Superior Court judge issued a restraining order for the laws, Friday.
Given the Republican party’s virtually unshakable political power in the state, and the legal hot water it got itself into over how it became so powerful, it’s hard to imagine that most judges would side with the GOP over this. But this is why unchecked gerrymandering to this degree is dangerous. If a Republican-appointed judge were to find in favor of the Republican legislature against the Democratic governor, the Republican party could set up a virtually indestructible majority based on rules-rigging rather than an electoral majority. It could become a one-party state that would set a democracy-crushing example for Republican majorities in other states and even for the GOP at the federal level.
A major reason why the federal courts came down so hard on North Carolina’s gerrymandering, along with rulings in other states, this year is the death of Supreme Court Antonin Scalia freed lower courts to fully enact laws that protect voters without fear that the higher court would overturn it. With Donald Trump and the Republican party set to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice next year, following the Republican Senate’s brazen theft of the right to appoint Scalia’s replacement from Barack Obama, sidelining the will of the voters to suit the GOP’s advantage is likely to become the de facto law of the land once again.
Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images