North Carolina gerrymandering bill pits black judges against other incumbents

Billy Corriher ThinkProgress

While the North Carolina legislature is working under a tight deadline to redraw election districts that courts have struck down for discriminating against black voters, it also made time to pass a measure to gerrymander state trial courts. The bill could result in a dramatic reduction in the number of African-American judges and other judges of color.

The North Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill today that would redraw the boundaries of the state’s court districts, over the objection of judges and other stakeholders. Rep. Marcia Morey (D), a former judge, said at a North Carolina General Assembly session on Wednesday that this bill is part of the legislature’s “systematic attack on our independent judiciary.”

Jim Blaine, an aide and “right hand man” to the president of the state senate, told judges in August that the goal of the bill is to get more Republican judges on the bench.

Since November 2016, when voters chose a new liberal majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court, the legislature has considered proposals to limit the governor’s authority to appoint judges, make judicial elections partisan, pack the state supreme court, and “unpack” the court of appeals to preserve the conservative majority. These attacks occurred as the state and federal courts began standing in the way of the legislature’s agenda by protecting voting rights.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Justin Burr (R), was criticized for initially trying to rush judicial redistricting through the legislature, and he has since toured the state to solicit feedback on the proposal. Judges across the state have spoken out against the changes. The North Carolina Courts Commission last week asked the legislature to postpone the changes, and several judges warned that the redistricting would cause disruption that would harm the citizens relying on the courts.

Many critics of the proposal, including judges, have expressed concerns about the impact on judicial diversity. An analysis by NC Policy Watch reported that judges of color on the district courts are more likely to be “double bunked,” meaning that they are in a new district with another incumbent. The analysis found that 10 of the 12 districts that double-bunk judges are “majority Democrat,” and more than half of all judges of color are pitted against another incumbent.

“This craven attack on our courts illustrates how far an illegally-gerrymandered legislature will go to maintain power and influence,” Melissa Price Kromm, director of North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, told ThinkProgress.

“The same legislators that have gerrymandered themselves into safe districts are now trying to eliminate the opportunity for voters to make their voices heard in the judicial branch,” she added. Kromm participated in a march to the legislature on Wednesday to oppose judicial gerrymandering.

The bill is the latest of many other changes the legislature has made to the courts that could inhibit diversity on the bench. A 2013 bill ended the state’s widely-respected public financing program for judicial elections. The program — supported by judges on both sides of the aisle — offered candidates for appellate courts several hundred thousand dollars for their campaigns, if they qualified by raising a certain number of small contributions. These programs can help diverse candidates, who often lack connections to networks of wealthy campaign donors, win elections. Democracy North Carolina, an organization seeking to increase voter participation, noted that in 2011, all of the female and black appellate judges in the state had been elected with public financing.

To allow more time to reorganize judicial election districts, the legislature is also considering a bill to cancel the 2018 primary elections for North Carolina judges, as well as a bill to end judicial elections altogether and allow the legislature to appoint judges.

“Eliminating primaries for judicial elections in 2018 is about buying more time to figure out how to agree on either new and gerrymandered judicial maps or some other plan like merit selection,” Rob Schofield, policy analyst for NC Policy Watch, told the Winston-Salem Journal.

Kromm criticized the bill. “You can’t eliminate an election to grease the wheels of partisan politics,” she said.


Reposted from ThinkProgress

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work