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Redistricting maps should get most attention

North Carolina’s General Assembly has a long and not so honorable history of creating legislative maps that have been consistently struck down by federal and N.C. courts. This year, maps for N.C. Congressional districts, State Senate districts and State Representative districts were drawn again as they are every 10 years due to U.S. Census data, or when the courts order new maps. Indeed, N.C. has drawn more litigation over this issue than any other state over the past 10 years.

One would think that the Republican legislators who control the map making process would have been embarrassed by their past behavior and the millions of taxpayer dollars they have spent defending their work only to have the courts declare that their maps are illegal. One would think – if they didn’t already know that the Republicans in the General Assembly are either very slow learners and/or they just don’t care about fairness. Or as is said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

After months of work and public hearings, the General Assembly passed maps for Congress, state Senate and state House. The maps passed along strictly party- lines – Not one Republican voted against the maps and not one Democrat voted for the maps. And Governor Cooper cannot veto these maps because only N.J. and N.C. do not allow the governor to veto redistricting maps. How convenient! As one of the commenters said during the recent redistricting hearing at Western Carolina University “Let’s call this what it is. Political corruption, pure and simple.” And that was before the maps were drawn.

The only way to challenge these maps is through the courts. Already, the NAACP, Common Cause and several voters have filed suits, challenging the legality of these maps. And noted Democratic election attorney Marc Elias and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder are filing suits. Elias won lawsuits challenging prior N.C. redistricting plans in both federal and local courts. Following the passing of the 2021 maps he said that “N.C. Republicans are persistent and shameless,” and he intends to beat them again.

Why are these suits needed? N.C. is as close to being a 50/50 Democratic/Republican) state as any state in the country. In the 2020 elections, Democratic congressional candidates received more than 50% of the votes while winning only three of 13 N.C. congressional seats. The maps which just passed don’t even pretend to be fair, giving Republicans a 10-4 or an 11-3 advantage in the 2022 Congressional races. The maps for state Senate and state Representative are just as skewed, giving Republicans a likely veto proof majority in the General Assembly again following the 2022 election. And the new maps clearly make our Black, Latino and Native American representatives underdogs for reelection. How convenient!

Many election experts have weighed in on our new maps. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project evaluates election maps across the country and has given the NC General Assembly an “F” for their maps. They simulated a million possible maps for N.C. and only the outliers showed anything close to the maps which we ended up with. Our General Assembly really had to work hard to come up with maps as unfair as these. 

North Carolina will be adding another congressperson due to our population growth over the past decade. Here in Western N.C., we have been in Congressional District 11. In 2022, we will be in Congressional District 14 which will include Watauga County (Boone) and move three counties – McDowell, Rutherford and Polk- to Congressional District 13. President Biden carried Watauga County in 2020. However, Virginia Fox has been the congressperson from that area since 2004. So, I’ll bet you think that Ms. Fox will have to run for reelection in the 2022 primary against our own Madison Cawthorn. Well, of course, you’d be wrong because our General Assembly carved out Ms. Fox’s home precinct in Watauga County and placed it in the new District 11. Watauga County is the only county in the state where a teeny, tiny slice was moved to favor an incumbent congressperson. Again, how convenient! 

This makes Madison Cawthorn’s race more competitive. So, what has he done? He jumped ship and will now run in the newly created Congressional District 13 as he feels he has a better chance of winning there than in our district. So, before he has completed even half of his first term, he is writing off most of the present District 11 and focusing his time on running in his new district. To paraphrase the old Irish Ballad “Maddie, we hardly knew ye.”   But we’re used to that. After all, former Congressman Mark Meadows left District 11 without representation for 10 months when he left his job to become White House Chief of Staff. 

So, where do we go from here? Well, it’s up to the courts. At least two possibilities: 

We will have to run the 2022 elections with these new maps because there is not enough time to redraw them before the end of the candidate filing period of (December 6-17) and our March 8 primary election. If new maps are mandated by the courts, those maps will be drawn after the 2022 election.

The court(s) will order N.C. to move the candidate filing period and the March primary to allow time for new maps to be drawn. The N.C. primary elections have often been in May, so that is a possible solution. But this would have to happen very fast.

It’s hard to believe that this is where we have landed. This type of thing is going on in many states controlled by both Democrats and Republicans. It is a major reason that we can’t have competitive elections and look what we end up with. With all the talk about secure elections, this is the situation which should be getting the most attention. When we allow partisan hacks to make all the rules, this is what we get. Is it any wonder why so many people have lost interest in politics and why our political bodies have such low approval ratings? Our democracy is at stake if we don’t get this fixed soon.  

 Gary St. Arnauld – Franklin, N.C.

Safety and well being of Americans has been destroyed

“Surely a more stable person could be found.”

President Joe Biden obviously does not know who he was elected to represent.

He is more dedicated to the well-being of the illegal aliens and open border policy than American citizens.  

Also, what help is being given to the Americans left behind in his rushed Afghanistan departure?  We left billions of dollars in military equipment, which will be used against us, while they are wearing our military uniforms.  It appears our Commander in Chief is unaware of the pledge of no American left behind. 

Proof of COVID 19 vaccination is not required for illegal aliens entering into the United States. No prior notice is extended to governors and mayors prior to releasing the illegal aliens into the various states.

Proposing to pay each illegal alien separated from their family the enormous sum of $450,000 each, is just a ridiculous.  When bad behavior is rewarded, all you get back is more behavior.  This plan makes one wonder if they should fly to Mexico and walk back across the border.

He shuts down construction of the Keystone Pipeline and then pressures Russian and other counties to pump more oil, which we will purchase, causing us to pay even higher prices for gasoline.  The price per gallon is already at $5.00 per gallon in California. 

May the wrath of God almighty be brought down on President Joe Biden, and all of his administration, for destroying the safety and well-being of Americans now and for future generations.

John Nord – Franklin, N.C.

 The gift of courageous love

We seem to follow the things we love most. Whether a favored celebrity, political party, social media or for whatever pulls the heart for total allegiance. Modern man seems to be at the point of worshiping what man creates or wants to create. We’ve come to the place where even within leadership we’re told how to view life and they will lead us into an enlightenment that has never been realized. Everything of the past is in question and we must march to a new drummer, which only they themselves seem qualified to fulfill. This seems a chipping away little by little where there’s hardly any notice of how the past has brought us to the present. Many are uneased with this modern thinking, yet there also are those who gladly embrace it.  

There was a young, 26-year-old man, who is unknown to many of us by the name of August Landmesser. He was a Nazi loyalist, but yet in a photo taken at a rally in Hamburg Germany, all arms were extended in salute to the country’s leader, “Hitler.” Except there was one with folded arms, August, who refused to salute. He realized the evil of hatred towards fellow human beings, seeing that he fell in love with a young lady named Irma Eckler. You see, Irma Eckler was a young Jewish women whom August was deeply in love with. They married and had a child, half Jew and half German, which was a disgrace in German society. She was sent to a concentration camp and there died, and he was sent to the front line and declared missing in action. August, in such courageous love saw beyond what man called upon him to hate yet made such a statement of what is only found outside of mankind. A  love we wish for and all desire. His love was so deeply courageous it was worth dying for. 

We follow what we love, and we love what we choose, we choose to listen to those who tell us what to hate, who tell us that they are right and others are wrong. We listen little to the Divine calling that is outside of futile man, the only one who courageously died for all our hate, selfish desires, pride, the love towards evil and all the while we say, “look at us, we are good.” To what do we point our children to? Do we point to our leaders or media which begs our allegiance that we’re so committed to? If we ourselves can’t explain a foundation upon which we stand, and only have mankind as a foundation. This foundation is built on the history of shifting sand with little direction of where man is going or what value man is. Christ’s courageous love is what He gives, asking for courageous love back to Him. There is much to be thankful for, especially when there’s a foundation that is true and tested and is where such love is found.  

Deni Shepard – nds13@frontier.com

Freedom to Vote act will save our democracy

I have lived and voted in WNC for 23 years. During that time our Congressional representation has changed four times. On at least one of those occasions, the elected official declined to run again because his seat was deemed vulnerable due to redistricting. In other words, the State legislature re-drew the district lines to favor their own party and disadvantage the party of the incumbent. When this is the way district lines are drawn, it amounts to parties choosing voters, rather than voters choosing who will represent them. Both parties do it, and it is a practice that is designed to entrench power, not to serve the will of the people. It is a practice almost as old as the Republic, but modern technology has made it possible to design a winning district for your side “with near surgical precision.”

There ought to be a law against that, you say? 

The proposed Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will end partisan gerrymandering and ensure more fair, transparent and nonpartisan maps. The same technology that makes maps unfair can be used to make them fair, after all. Senators Burr and Tillis need to deliver the Freedom to Vote Act to the American people. To do that, they need to defy the majority leader in the U.S. Senate by eliminating the filibuster, a remnant of the Jim Crow era, which is blocking the progress of this overwhelmingly popular and urgently needed legislation. Then they must vote for the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Our democracy will not survive any other way.  

  

Elizabeth Swift – Franklin, N.C.

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