Lines make a difference
Gerrymandering has wreaked havoc on the voting system of North Carolina. What exactly is the process, and why does it matter?
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The importance of voter education
HBCU professors in North Carolina have emphasized the importance of making every vote count given the especially unusual political arena in the United States compared to other elections in United States history.
North Carolinas Republican-led legislature has in recent years drawn state districts in an attempt to limit the power of the student voters around the state. Their process, referred to as gerrymandering, may continue to influence state elections for years to come.
Legislators draw state districts every ten years once citizens have filled out the U.S. Census. In most states, congressional representatives have the task of drawing district lines.
In 2011, the Republican-led General Assembly approved the most recent redistricting plans, which split the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University campus almost in half. In doing so, diluted the power of the student vote which helped the Repiblican party.
Aigné Taylor, junior class president at NC A&T, emphasized the importance of the redistricting plan for the student body.
We are one of the largest and youngest Black voting blocks in North Carolina so it is vital that we have elected officials that represent us and advocate for issues that we care about, Taylor said.
The district lines changed the integrity of the student voting bloc of the nations largest HBCU campus until 2019 when legislators began to work on new ones after a three-person panel of state judges found them unconstitutional. N.C. A&T and the remainder of Guilford County would eventually become part of just one district in a 2019 map.
Christian Clark, junior class vice president at NC A&T, saw the process of gerrymandering as part of a much longer pattern in the state and nation.
The impact that we as HBCU students have in communities has had a tremendous impact due to the hardships we face as a Black community to excel as citizens, he said. This tragedy [gerrymandering] in my opinion was based off of the voter suppression laws that have been placed to target black communities to put them at a disproportionate disadvantage when it comes to voting.
Though a Republican-led legislature did this in North Carolina, they are not alone a primarily Democratic legislature in Maryland used some similar tactics. The Supreme Court has declined to help redraw state districts, thinking deciding the issue is beyond their purview and too inherently partisan.
We have never struck down a partisan gerrymander as unconstitutionaldespite various requests over the past 45 years. The expansion of judicial authority would not be into just any area of controversy, but into one of the most intensely partisan aspects of American political life, the Court said in a legal opinion. That intervention would be unlimited in scope and durationit would recur over and over again around the country with each new round of districting, for state as well as federal representatives.
Gerrymandering once reshaped the outlook of the student body on a large campus. This year, the greater campus community has the chance to make their choice clear at the ballot box.
Next: To avoid a long search for candidates who are running in districts that include HBCUs, here are the candidates running for election in North Carolina districts that include HBCUs.