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WASHINGTON, DC- The request for voter records confirms fears of Kris Kobach continuing his tactics of voter suppression and the genesis of the Elections Integrity Commission in general. The League of Women Voters president, Chris Carson released this statement on the issue: "There is no justification for this giant fishing expedition. The Commission itself is a distraction from the real issue of voter suppression, and that efforts to `investigate voter fraud' threaten our most fundamental voting rights. "This most recent move by Mr. Kobach is an indicator that the so-called Election `Integrity' Commission is not interested in facts, but false accusations and dangerous policy recommendations. "State laws govern the release of voter registration information, and, at a minimum, election officials must follow those laws before releasing data. The League stands with those state leaders who have already come out to support their voters and refuse these requests from Mr. Kobach and the EIC."
Read the full statement here: http://lwv.org/press-releases/lwv-statement-election-`integrity'-commission-fishing-fraud
The League of Women Voters of North Carolina is the lead plaintiff in a partisan gerrymandering case (LWVNC v. Rucho) that charges the NCGA's drawing of district maps violated the 1st and 14th amendments of the constitution. The case was filed September 2016 and was scheduled to be tried in Federal Court in the North Carolina's Middle District in Greensboro on June 26.
On June 19, however, one week before the League case was to be heard, the US Supreme Court announced its agreement to hear a similar case, Gill v. Whitford, in which Wisconsin voters charge that the Wisconsin legislature illegally drew district voting maps to favor a political party. This announcement was followed by an indefinite postponement of the LWVNC v. Rucho case. A new date has not been set. So until then, everyone in the League of Women Voters of North Carolina--and likely every state with pending gerrymandering litigation--is anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court ruling.
The Wisconsin case and the League's case are strikingly similar. This article attempts to summarize the cases and point out key elements to watch out for when the case is ultimately heard.
Wisconsin's Gill v. Whitford, originally filed in July 2015, is significant because up to now partisan gerrymandering, that is the drawing of voting maps to favor a particular party, has been legal. The Wisconsin case is the first partisan gerrymandering case since 1986 Davis v. Bandemer, when the Supreme Court declared partisan gerrymandering to be justiciable, but overruled the Federal district courts judgment that the Indiana legislative redistricting plan was unconstitutional. In a 2004 landmark case, Vieth v Jubelirer, justices ruled that courts could hear cases about gerrymandered redistricting maps. However, until the courts possessed a "discernable and manageable standard" by which to assess whether a map was illegally politically gerrymandered, the issue would be considered a non-justiciable The Wisconsin case attempts to make partisan gerrymandering cases justiciable and does so by offering "discernable and manageable standards", or metrics.
The Wisconsin case, as well as the LWVNC v Rucho, introduces a metric referred to as an "efficiency gap". According to the Brennan Center for Justice, the efficiency gap is a standard for measuring partisan gerrymandering. Developed in a 2015 paper by University of Chicago law school professor, Nicholas Stephanopoulos, and Eric McGhee, research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, the efficiency gap is at the core of the Wisconsin case and counts the number of votes each party wastes in an election to determine whether either party enjoyed a systematic advantage in turning votes into seats. Efficiency gap is the difference between parties' respective wasted votes in an election, divided by the total number of votes cast.
In Whitford v. Gill, it is argued, "When the efficiency gap is relatively small and roughly equivalent to the efficiency gaps that have traditionally existed, the map should not be deemed unconstitutional.... But where the gap is large and much greater than the historical norm, there should be a presumption of unconstitutionality.... an intent to systematically disadvantage voters based on their political beliefs... When partisan gerrymandering is extreme the process is broken. Current legislators have no incentive to alter it and adherents of the disadvantaged party are unable to do so because their votes have been unfairly diluted.
The efficiency gap alone is not proof positive of unconstitutional gerrymandering. The Wisconsin case, as well as LWVNC v. Rucho, which has been combined with Common Cause v Rucho, both include efficiency gap metrics in their arguments. But it also proposes a three prong "partisan symmetry test for partisan gerrymandering." The first prong, discriminatory intent, is whether a district plan was enacted with the purpose of benefiting one party or disadvantaging another. The second test's prong is discrimInatory effect, whether the plan exhibits a level of partisan asymmetry that is high and durable relative to historic norms. The third prong is justification, whether the state can justify the plan's asymmetry based on the states political geography or legitimate redistricting objectives."
The remedy sought by the LWVNC mirrors the requested remedy of Gill v. Whitford, and that is to "seek the enactment of a balanced map that does not give either side an unfair partisan advantage". Whether the SCOTUS will agree with Wisconsin voters and be convinced by the efficiency gap metricis anyone's guess.
Regardless of outcome, the SCOTUS decision may impact North Carolina's congressional districts. It may influence how the lower courts proceed with current gerrymandering cases on the docket including LWVNC v Rucho, which had been consolidated with another similar case, Common Cause v. Rucho. If the high court rules against partisan gerrymandering and in a manner favorable to our cause, there is still much work to be done. A fellow League member and former attorney, Aylett Colston, commented in her recent blog,"Even if every court case goes our way, it will still be up to the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) to interpret and apply the Supreme Court decisions. Under current law, even if the NCGA has to re-draw the maps, they can draw them more or less however they want, so long as the maps comply with the minimal standard set by the U.S. Constitution. They are not required to be impartial or evenhanded."
Until the Supreme Court convenes again in the Fall, he position of the League of Women Voters of the United States and of LWVNC remains: We will continue to advocate redistricting processes and enforceable standards that promote fair and effective representation at all levels of government with maximum opportunity for public participation. The LWVUS advocates the establishment of an independent special commission with membership that reflects the diversity of the unit of government, including citizens at large, representatives of public interest groups, and members of minority groups.
In other words, let's keep focused and fighting the good fight!
You can access a comprehensive article about what impact a US Supreme Court decision can have on our state here: http://wcqs.org/post/scotus-partisan-gerrymander-decision-will-impact-north-carolina
The Redistricting Action Team is focused on creating a positive ACTION plan. If you are interested in joining the group contact Barbara Bleisweis at firstname.lastname@example.org
We appreciate the important synergy that exists between CMS, who develop and present a strong budget plan and the Commission, which must ensure careful oversight of the CMS budget. It is clear that both groups take their responsibilities seriously and conduct themselves with integrity and mutual respect.
The League of Women Voters has always supported strong public education. Our Charlotte-Mecklenburg League has been closely following the new CMS student assignment plan and bond referendum. We witness the educational challenges our community faces and the great legacy and successes we enjoy.
Members of the League urge your full support for the bond issue to build, replace and renovate much needed schools throughout the county because it will provide facilities that now serve almost twice the students for which a building was built. This results in aging mobile units, overburdened cafeterias, inadequate restrooms and no space for special classes.
These capital expenditures will also expand access to the district's planned magnet programs.
The League strongly urges you to approve the proposed expenditure to wipe out the waiting list of four and five-year-olds for the child care subsidy program. Study after study confirms the value of pre-K education for all children. You will recall that the Opportunity Task Force said,
"A child's earliest years have a profound and often lasting impact on his or her school success, career success, and adult life. Early care and education in particular pose opportunities for substantial long-term benefits to both children and the general public."
Chicago and Michigan studies* show that investments in early education return $7 to $16 for every dollar spent by reducing costs of remedial education, criminal justice, and welfare while increasing worker skills, income levels and economic productivity,
The budget proposal for early childhood education to serve all four and five-year-olds is a welcome start, and we urge your approval.
Important funding is still needed to complete the CMS plan for meeting the social and emotional needs of our students. $4.5 million is requested to provide an additional 42 counselors, 6 psychologists and 12 social workers. Physical and social needs must be met before a teacher can teach and a child can learn.
A caring community funds that commitment. We trust that as caring stewards you will support these vital programs that build the foundation for all of our futures. Thank You all!
1. Develop branding strategy and slogan upon which to base the Committee messaging.
2. Frequent and consistent messaging to the NC General Assembly House and Senate representatives.
3. A plan to attract millenials to the team.
4. Identify key issues that span party lines and humanize the concept of gerrymandering.
5. Research the economic cost of gerrymandering for NC citizens.
If you are interested in joining the Team contact Barbara at email@example.com
Most of the County Commission has so far wisely rejected a proposal to set a pat formula for local funds allocated to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.
The NC Senate, however, continues to push for a constitutional amendment to set restrictive formulas for income tax rates and budget expenditures. The latest push for an amendment, SB817, caps the income tax rate at 5.5%, leaving out the restrictive expenditure formula found in last year's version, but would have the same effect on the state budget.
Funding--or failure to adequately fund--public education has short and long-term consequences which greatly impact other costs at the state and local level, from social services to public safety. Fiscal responsibility demands that we weigh how failure to educate our most vulnerable four-year-olds impacts future welfare costs. Those governing need to consider how failure to teach our elementary students to read impacts the future prison population.
It is the job of our representatives in the NC Senate and House to do a cost-benefit analysis by evaluating how the use of tax revenue can be used to uplift Mecklenburg and North Carolina in the long-term. We need thoughtful representatives, not illusive formulas that can be used as political cover for not doing the right thing.
Formulas do not adjust to real circumstances. Aging buildings, unbridled growth, an increasing number of high-needs students are real problems that must be addressed now, or more students will suffer and fail. Post-recession adjustments have not been made to education funding so the state will continue to fall behind. We can no longer compete for teachers with neighboring South Carolina. Yet the state provides less per-pupil funding than before the recession.
The Constitution mandates a "sound public education" but the Legislature seems focused on using education money to expand the program of vouchers for private schools and to increase for-profit charter schools. Under pat formulas for taxing and expenditures, the public schools will lose out.
The League of Women Voters believes that formulas should not replace leadership. Instead, we call on our elected representatives to lead by creating thoughtful solutions to difficult problems to meet our Constitutional and moral commitment to our children.