Seth Meyers Explains the Root of North Carolina's Political Crisis

December 20th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

In a segment looking at the so-called "legislative coup" unfolding in North Carolina, "Late Night" host Seth Meyers highlighted one of the things that's let Republicans pass measures limiting the power of the incoming Democratic governor: Gerrymandering.

Meyers explained how the state's deliberately convoluted districting has allowed Republicans to maintain a supermajority in the legislature, empowering them to jam through measures that will effectively strip the next governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, of executive powers and privileges enjoyed by his Republican predecessor. Meyers pointed to District 12 in particular.

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"Basically they drew some districts to group together as many African-American voters as possible to dilute their political power," Meyers said. Though black people make up only 22 percent of North Carolina's population, they make up nearly half of District 12 voters, according to U.S. Census data.

In August 2016, three federal judges ruled that 28 of North Carolina's 170 districts qualified as examples of unconstitutional "racial gerrymanders." They ordered lawmakers to redraw them during their next session in 2017, Mother Jones reported, with one of the three justices writing that "race was the predominant criterion in drawing all of the challenged districts."

These racial gerrymanders may have prevented some Democrats from winning seats in the North Carolina General Assembly in November, Slate's Mark Stern wrote. Republicans held onto a supermajority despite losing both the governorship and the conservative majority on the state Supreme Court.

Meyers cited a couple questionable measures passed in special sessions since Election Day, including one that reduces the number of staffers the governor can appoint from 1,500 to 425, and another that grants Republicans control over the State Board of Elections during even-numbered years and Democrats control during odd-numbered years — when no elections are held.

"These proposals are not merely designed to negate the will of the voters in this election," Stern wrote. "They are also intended to maintain Republican-sponsored voter suppression, thereby preventing Democrats from ever regaining control of the North Carolina government."