Asheville Citizen-Times from Asheville, North Carolina on September 23, 2018 · E9
Get access to this page with a Free Trial

A Publisher Extra Newspaper

Asheville Citizen-Times from Asheville, North Carolina · E9

Asheville, North Carolina
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 23, 2018
Start Free Trial
Cancel ❚ SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2018 ❚ 9E A three-judge panel has ruled that the congressional districts drawn by North Carolina’s Legislature are im- permissible partisan gerrymander- s.Assuming that the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t overturn its ruling, the panel is expected to ask either the Leg- islature or a “special master” it chooses to submit a fairer redistricting map. It should consider a third option: use a redistricting jury to select the map.Legislators, as we have seen re- peatedly, are ill-suited to draft the dis- tricts because of their strong incentive to seek partisan advantage – that is, create partisan gerrymanders – which explains the judges’ role reigning in the Legislature. Alas, judges also aren’t well-suited to select a redistricting map. Not only is judicial selection heavily influenced by partisan considerations, but the criterion for a good judge is legal ex- pertise, not democratic accountabil- ity. The consequence is that the public doesn’t trust judges when they “enter the political thicket.” And when they do so, the judiciary endangerssometh- ing it cherishes: its institutional legiti- macy. The risk to judicial legitimacy was most famously illustrated in Bush vs. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court case that determined the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. Florida and U.S. supreme court judges de- nied partisan motivation, but the public didn’t believe them. The U.S. Supreme Court still hasn’t recovered its credibility. Already, North Carolina’s Democrat dominated panel has been accused of bias by taking the redistricting deci- sion away from a Republican dominat- ed Legislature. To preserve the court’s legitimacy, the three-judge panel should exercise its inherent power to convene a jury, which includes a redistricting jury. This jury would be limited to choosing among submitted redistricting maps. Consider one possible implementa- tion: The panel convenes a randomly se- lected jury broadly representative of registered voters; for example, 240 ju- rors stratified so that each of North Carolina’s 120 General Assembly dis- tricts is represented by a man and woman, and the overall jury’s compo- sition mirrors the partisan composi- tion of registered voters. To reduce costs and inconvenience, jurors remotely attend the redistrict- ing trial via a local courthouse near their home. The court instructs the jury in redis- tricting law (e.g., districts must be ap- proximately equally sized). The jury selects among submitted maps, including maps submitted by the plaintiffs, defendants, and others backed by at least fifty petition signa- tures. Each submitted map must include a copy of the algorithms – that is, the mathematical criteria – by which they were drawn. The jury meets for a minimum of two days. Advocates for each map make their case, including rebutting their opponents’ arguments. Jurors then deliberate and vote. Any map chosen by a redistricting jury is subject to review by the U.S. and North Carolina supreme courts. Given how easy today’s redistricting software makes it to design profes- sionally drawn maps with a few mouse clicks – e.g., specifying with several clicks that districts should be equal, contiguous, and compact – jurors would need to find a simple way to choose among the submissions. That could be accomplished by focusing on the criteria used to draw each map rather than the details of the maps themselves. Would this result in a perfect plan? Certainly not. But the relevant ques- tion is whether it would improve upon the status quo. As a microcosm of the general pub- lic, a redistricting jury has more demo- cratic legitimacy than unelected judges. It may also be less expensive and faster than the current redistrict- ing process, especially if implemented early in the process. For example, the government has already spent more than a year and millions of dollars de- signing andlitigating proposed maps. Given low-paid jurors and a speedy trial lasting only days, a redistricting jury could alleviate these cost and speed problems. A redistricting jury is the holy grail the judiciary has been looking for: a means for it to avoid entering the political thicket without either giving carte blanche to the Legisla- ture’s gerrymanders or waiting for eternity for the Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment to fix the process. J.H. Snider, a former American Po- litical Science Association congres- sional fellow working on the staff of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, is the editor of The State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse. Jury, not judges, should pick redistricting plan Your Turn J.H. Snider Guest columnist A redistricting jury is the holy grail the judiciary has been looking for: a means for it to avoid entering the political thicket without either giving carte blanche to the Legislature’s gerrymanders or waiting for eternity for the Legislature to pass a constitutional amendment to fix the process. Most of us in Western North Caroli- na are feeling grateful that Hurricane Florence turned a little sooner than ex- pected, and did not hit us as hard as meteorologists projected. Of course, Florence churned for days in the Atlan- tic Ocean, picking up energy and mois- ture along the way, and our friends and family in Eastern North Carolina and South Carolina are still experiencing the devastation from wind and, in places, between two and three feet of rain. Our hearts go out to them. The destructive wrath of these mighty storms, which are becoming even more powerful because of a warming atmosphere and warming oceans, were predictable decades ago. In a sense, Hurricane Florence has been sitting off the coast of North Car- olina since the 1980s. In 1982, Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Robert Walker (one of the more conservative members of Congress at the time) had this to say after a Congressional hearing on global warming, during which he heard experts such as NASA’s Dr. James Hansen explain the physics of the greenhouse effect: “Today I have a sense of déjà vu … we have been told and told and told that there is a prob- lem with the increasing carbon diox- ide in the atmosphere. We all accept that fact, and we realize that the po- tential consequences are certainly major in their impact on mankind. Now is the time. The research is clear. It is up to us now to summon the po- litical will.” It is a fact that the earth has warmed approximately 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since the mid-1900s, and our nation’s top scientists make bold statements such as this (from the Fourth National Climate Assessment): “It is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative ex- planation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.” And yet, for the past 36 years, we have continued to ignore the over- whelming scientific evidence that the planet is warming, that we are caus- ing it through our emissions of green- house gases, and that extreme events will be more prevalent and more pow- erful as the planet warms. We have allowed the science of climate change to be usurped by politics. Quite the opposite of summoning the political will to tackle climate change re- sponsibly and sanely, as Congressman Walker desired decades ago, we have become entrenched in our wrong-head- ed camps and have done nothing. Meanwhile, the Hurricane Florences have been sitting out there all along in warming oceans, churning away. There will be some readers who’ll shame me for “capitalizing” on a disas- ter to advance my cause. But I am merely a high school math and science teacher, a volunteer with the nonparti- san Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a father of three lovely children. I only want us to put aside our differences and act, once and for all, for the benefit of society now and for generations to come. No one will say that Hurricane Flor- ence—or any extreme event—is caused by climate change, but scien- tists are boldly stating these days that the extreme events are more likely due to climate change and more powerful because the warming atmosphere holds more moisture and the warmer oceans lead to storms with more ener- gy. The record-breaking rainfall of Florence and, last year in Texas, Hur- ricane Harvey, are perfect examples. That we are experiencing more ex- treme events is well documented; for example, the Actuaries Climate In- dex shows that extreme events are occurring at a much higher rate now than during the reference period of 1961-1990. As a society, the direction is clear— we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce our greenhouse emissions, ushering in a thriving new era of clean energy and energy effi- ciency. But what can we ordinary citizens do? We can start by working to create the political will Republican Con- gressman Walker discussed 36 years ago. We can call our elected officials and demand action. Importantly, starting November 6 we can vote for representatives who pledge to work together to create and implement bi- partisan solutions, instead of more political rancor. We can vote for Dem- ocrats who agree to work with Repub- licans to create fair and effective so- lutions, such as a revenue-neutral carbon dividends system champi- oned by essentially all economists. We can vote for Republicans who pledge to acknowledge that climate change is real and dangerous, and who agree to work with Democrats to address this situation immediately. If not now, when? Michael Hill, Ph.D., teaches math and environmental science at Ashe- ville School. In Florence’s wake, how can we address climate change? Your Turn Michael Hill Guest columnist To all of my fellow teachers and parents, I only have one question: how much more do we have to en- dure? School is starting again and with that comes a yearly tradition. Once again, teachers like me are be- ing forced to beg for basic school sup- plies. Some supplies I will be able to get from generous friends and fam- ilies, but what will I do for the sup- plies I can’t get through donations? The same thing public school teach- ers are forced to do every year – pay for these basic classroom supplies out of our own pockets. Over the past decade, the politi- cians in Raleigh have slashed funding for classroom supplies in half when you adjust for inflation. At the same time, teachers are being told that many basic supplies such as cleaning wipes, tissues, and hand-sanitizers need to be listed as optional on the lists we give to parents each year. So if my stu- dents are going to learn in a clean envi- ronment, who provides these basic supplies? Teachers. I went into teaching for two main reasons: First, I felt it was a calling in my life, and that I could be a positive influence in the lives of others. Sec- ond, I needed a way to support my four children. Throughout my career, I have had to purchase classroom ma- terials for children other than my own. Today, with all of my children grown and gone, I find that I am called to supply even more. While we used to be able to take advantage of an an- nual back-to-school sales tax holi- day, the politicians decided to get rid of that too. By forcing us to buy more school supplies and pay higher sales taxes on those supplies, the politi- cians have increased the burden put on me – further showing how little they care about public education. Something’s gotta give. It seems as though education is only valued by educators and par- ents. Where would the politicians in Raleigh be if they had not gone through our educational system? Are they aware of the sacrifices their teachers made for them? Do they have any idea how much time and money their teachers put into their futures? Either they have forgotten, or they simply don’t care – because now all they seem to care about is giv- ing huge tax cuts to millionaires and big corporations. And now it turns out that they want to give even more tax cuts to the rich, in the form of a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November. North Carolina’s economy is steadily recovering from the reces- sion of ten years ago, but public school funding is still as weak thanks to politicians who don’t seem to care about students and teachers. Our state is beginning to thrive once again, yet teacher pay and classroom funding is still well below where it should be. Unfortunately, the law- makers in the General Assembly seem to want our public schools to re- main in a permanent recession. The lack of care and responsibility the politicians in Raleigh show to- wards education in our state is frus- trating to say the least. As a parent myself, I know how defeating it feels to have to pay a monthly mortgage, car and insurance payments, and groceries while still having to worry about whether my child can have a successful year in public school. What are we paying all of these taxes towards if the government can’t pro- vide basic school supplies? That’s a question that has been on my mind for years now, and it’s a question I in- tend to ask when I cast my vote in No- vember. Lori Wright is a teacher and parent in Haywood County Schools. Shame on Raleigh for making teachers buy classroom supplies Your Turn Lori Wright Guest columnist

Get access to

  • The largest online newspaper archive
  • 19,400+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s
  • Millions of additional pages added every month

Publisher Extra Newspapers

  • Exclusive licensed content from premium publishers like the Asheville Citizen-Times
  • Archives through last month
  • Continually updated

Try it free