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Redistricting: Don’t get distracted
It’s redistricting lawsuit season again in North Carolina. It has become every bit as reliable, maybe more so, than the shift from fall to winter.
As associate professors of political science at N.C. State, and as engaged citizens, we feel the public and courtroom debate over the legality of voting maps has distracted us from a more fundamental concern: gerrymandering’s impact on the legitimacy of our democracy.
History provides plenty of examples where actions understood to be legal violated the normative foundations of legitimacy. Prior to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, parties used all manner of rules to restrict voting, especially by African Americans. Those were legal, but not legitimate. Slavery, too, was legal but never legitimate.
The most important question is not whether gerrymandering is legal, but whether it is consistent with the core norms that define legitimate government. If parties can effectively disenfranchise voters based on political views, is that respecting equality, securing equal rights, and protecting the sovereignty of the people? If not, it’s illegitimate.
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