Duke conference examines redistribution and democracy as the 2022 election cycle approaches


As the 2022 electoral cycle accelerates, one of the most captivating events leading up to it locally is underway this week at Duke University.

A two-day conference, Redistricting and American Democracy, features academics, judicial officials and activists who “will examine the legal and political landscape of redistricting, provide insight into the process underway in North Carolina and across the country, and will discuss reforms, ”according to a press release from Duke.

While the conference will look at what’s going on across the country, the issues surrounding the redistribution in North Carolina alone are worth the price of admission.

This year, during a period of growing political and racial polarization, the state’s congressional and legislature districts are expected to be redrawn using data from the 2020 census. Since the new maps will be in place for them. The next 10 years, for many political observers, democracy itself is at stake.

The Duke conference opened on Tuesday and brought together some of the country’s leading experts and advocates to discuss the legal and political landscape of the national redistribution. Participants also reviewed the litigation and reform efforts of the past decade and previewed the current redistribution cycle.

Judge James Wynn, a member of the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, delivered the conference opening address. A year after overturning the state’s voter identification law in 2016, Wynn made a landmark decision in Rucho against common cause which invalidated the congressional card of North Carolina as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

In 2019, the United States Supreme Court overturned the court’s decision and affirmed that “allegations of partisan gerrymandering present political issues beyond the reach of federal courts,” according to a 72-page program of the case. .

Wynn’s speech, “The Role of Judges and Justices in Redistricting,” explained why he thinks the Supreme Court decision in Rucho against common cause is an example of judicial activism.

“The Supreme Court still enjoys a fairly high level of voter confidence,” Wynn said last year at the James Madison Lecture at the NYU School of Law. “But I’m afraid… the connection of judges with the particular president who appointed them or the party they’ve been associated with will tell you the outcome of a case before you even fully know what it is.” And that’s not a good thing. Ultimately, the judiciary must maintain its independence.

Wednesday’s activities include a virtual discussion “on advances in quantitative analysis and computer science that have given policymakers, judges and advocates a set of powerful new tools to measure the impact of gerrymandering,” according to the press release.

The second day of the conference will focus on North Carolina and preparations for the General Assembly to draw new electoral maps.

One of the highlights of the day includes an interactive virtual session ‘How to Be a Decoupage Watchdog’, led by a decoupage consultant and investigative reporter who will train attendees on how to watch and watch. ‘interpret the map drawing process as it happens in real time, the statement said.

The conference foreshadows another showdown between Democrats and the state’s majority Republican lawmakers, who have relied on a cache of voter suppression laws to thwart the will of largely black and brown voters who typically pull the lever to the candidates of the Democratic Party. Some political observers say that instead of developing platforms that appeal to these voters, the North Carolina GOP has instead made it more difficult for blacks and browns to vote.

In an example of Republicans’ overbreadth, a three-judge panel earlier this month struck down the 2018 state photo voter identification law, enshrined in a referendum, because it was tainted with racial prejudice as a means for Republicans to maintain the balance of power in the General Assembly.

In 2016, the Fourth Circuit ruled unconstitutional a set of electoral provisions that “target African Americans with almost surgical precision” and “constitute inadequate remedies for the problems that justify them and, in fact, impose remedies for problems that justify them. did not exist. ”

The 83-page decision also noted that federal judges “cannot ignore the recorded evidence that, because of race, the legislature passed one of the biggest franchise restrictions in modern North Carolina history. North”.

The 2016 decision also noted that redistribution may include legislative efforts to suppress voters, declaring that discrimination can take many forms.

“A common way to surface is through challenges centered on dilution of votes, where the manipulation of constituencies can dilute the voting power of members of politically coherent minority groups,” the Federal Court said.

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Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an e-mail to tmcdonald@indyweek.com.


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