A new report of electoral integrity perception during the 2016 U.S. election classifies several states in the Southeast as pseudo-democracies. These rankings place states like North Carolina alongside democracies in Sierra Leone and Indonesia.
“If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly free democracy that is only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world,” Andrew Reynolds writes in the News & Observer.
The report, issued by the Electoral Integrity Project, ranks elections on a 100-point scale. North Carolina scored 58 of 100 for the 2016 election. Much of the rest of the South scored lower, with Tennessee and Oklahoma dropping to 55 of 100. Arizona ranks the lowest state in the country with a score of 53.
Beyond the general election integrity score, North Carolina received 7 of 100 score for the integrity of its voting district boundaries –- in other words, gerrymandering.
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According to WRAL, the state’s gerrymandering was taken up in court and reached all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court with the case of Harris v. McCrory. The plaintiffs in the case sued the state, claiming that Republican legislators used racial preferences to favor GOP candidates in 10 of the state’s 13 congressional districts.
"Racial gerrymandering doctrine is substantially complicated by the reality that the Voting Rights Act has been interpreted to sometimes require states to prioritize race when drawing its districts,” lawyers representing North Carolina wrote in a court brief.
"If you're going to have a racial gerrymandering standard, the North Carolina case calls out as an example of where there's a violation," Jon Greenbaum, chief counsel with the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, wrote in an amicus brief in the case. "They really went out of their way, and they went out of their way in terms of breaking up communities. You have lots of examples in which they specifically broke up political units to get more black voters into the district, and they really didn't need to."
The case has yet to be decided by the high court, but a ruling against the racial bias of the districting could result in a redefinition of local politics in North Carolina, and the state’s representation nationally.
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"For people who say we stacked those districts for Republicans, it is not true," said state Sen. Bob Rucho, a Republican and one of the senators that drew the state’s congressional districts. "Just tell us what's legal."