Testimony in the North Carolina Gerrymandering Trial wrapped up on Friday, with no time frame on when to expect a verdict.
The three judges who will rule on the trial court level of the case are superior court judges from around the state, Paul Ridgeway of Wake County and Alma Hinton of Halifax County, who are both Democrats, and Joseph Crosswhite of Iredell County, who is a Republican.
While the ball is in their court, several former governors have written an op-ed, offering an opinion on a ruling they would like to see. Their opinion follows.
As former governors of North Carolina, we know first-hand that state government works best when it works together. We also understand the importance of representing the entire state as its chief executive. When the executive and legislative branches communicate and cooperate, they can develop creative solutions for the tough problems that our State faces, and they can reach common ground solutions on the issues that might otherwise divide us.
The separation of powers in our state constitution fosters this healthy give-and-take among the three branches. For example, our constitution authorizes the governor to veto legislation, and authorizes the General Assembly to override that veto by a supermajority vote. Those types of checks and balances force the branches to listen to each other to ensure that legislation best reflects the interests of the people as a whole.
Partisan gerrymandering, no matter which party holds the majority, breaks this system. As recent experiences in our State have shown, partisan districts produce hyper-partisan legislators – legislators who are beholden to voters in the primaries and with no incentive to work across party lines. At the extreme, partisan gerrymandering even enables a single political party to seize supermajority control in the legislature without supermajority support among the people. At that point, the checks and balances in our constitutional system no longer count. The legislative supermajority can, for example, override the Governor’s veto at will, leaving no incentive to work with the Governor to get things done. In either case, the General Assembly is no longer responsive to the needs of our people – it serves partisan agendas, rather than the interests of the entire State. The consequences of skewing the system of governance in this manner are to discourage compromise, increase divisiveness, discourage capable citizens from seeking office, and erode the faith of our people in their state government.
As former governors of both political parties, it is distressing to have seen this unfold in our state’s history. It is also clear to all of us that this state of affairs will not improve without judicial relief. That is why we are joining together today, on a bipartisan basis, to support the challengers in Common Cause v. Lewis and to urge the courts to rule that partisan gerrymandering violates the most basic principles of our state constitution.
Accordingly, we have asked Robinson Bradshaw to submit an amicus curiae brief on our behalf as soon as the parties have concluded their presentation of evidence to the trial court.
James B. Hunt Jr., Governor,
James G. Martin,
Michael F. Easley, Governor, 2001-09
Beverly E. Perdue, Governor, 2009-13