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Wednesday, 24 July 2013 13:40

N.C. should take politics out of redistricting

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op frBy Martin Dyckman

Blackbeard, North Carolina's most famous pirate, was a fitting precursor to the modern brigands at Raleigh. As Scott McLeod's column pointed out last week (www.smokymountainnews.com/opinion/item/11167), there’s no apparent limit to their ruthlessness or to their scorn for the Old North State’s progressive traditions.

Their new tax deal — rhymes with steal — will save the richest of their constituents $10,000 on the average while raising rates on the poor and eventually shorting education and health care by some $700 million a year.

 

Like Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, the Republicans at Raleigh have perverted a legitimate election victory into a dominion of arrogance.

Here, however, there will be no riots, no military coup. But what is especially striking to someone having moved from another state is just how powerless the people of North Carolina are.

The conventional remedy of voting the rascals out faces one high hurdle in shrewdly rigged districts and another in the campaign money that their true constituency — the Koch brothers and Art Pope — will bring to bear. The three-judge court that ought to have trashed the gerrymanderings proclaimed itself powerless to recognize the obvious.

House Bill 606, with a bipartisan majority of co-sponsors, would establish a nonpartisan districting process with clearly stated standards for the courts to respect and enforce. But — no surprise — it isn’t moving.

In Florida, the people put the legislature in its place by adopting constitutional initiatives that spell out how districts should be drawn fairly. The legislative bosses fought it, but nearly two-thirds of the voters cast their ballots “yes.” The state Supreme Court overturned the next Senate plan and is allowing challenges to the House’s maps to proceed.

Unfortunately, North Carolina is one of the 26 states whose legislatures have the first, last and only word; where the people cannot petition either to put new laws or constitutional amendments on the ballot. This was not an apparent problem when the government was reasonable. Now it is a formula for despotism, especially in the era of Citizens United.

If there’s to be a remedy, it will take the form of a citizens’ campaign pledged to support only those candidates who commit to giving the people of North Carolina what the people of Florida have: the mechanism to overrule an unresponsive, arrogant legislature.

The campaign’s name would be self-evident: Power to the People.

(Dyckman lives in Waynesville and is the author of several books on Florida politics. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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