Professor Michael Curtis tells NC Policy Watch a bipartisan redistricting committee would be step in right direction

Photo of Wake Forest School of Law Professor Michael Curtis

Michael Kent Curtis is one of the foremost constitutional historians in the United States.

Professor Michael Curtis is quoted in the following article, “The Path Forward: Court cases clear, outcomes up in the air,” written by Melissa Boughton that was published on NC Policy Watch on Jan. 26, 2017.

Michael Curtis, Wake Forest University School of Law professor in constitutional and public law, said a bipartisan redistricting committee would be a step in the right direction and certainly better than the system North Carolina has currently for redistricting.

“The legislators pick the voters instead of the voters picking the legislators,” he said. “When people gerrymander, it’s a way of rigging the election.”

And both parties have been accused of doing it – it’s not just a Republican or Democrat issue.

Curtis, like Phillips, believes the Supreme Court will want to take up partisan redistricting – an issue justices have not yet reviewed.

Legislators have been open about using partisan gerrymandering because the high court has not yet struck it down, Curtis said, but it’s not because the court doesn’t think it’s wrong.

“They’re saying this is an undemocratic device for which we have yet to come up with a suitable test for dealing with it,” he said of the court. “It’s a really crisp case if the courts decide to take it in terms of the intent to gerrymander politically because in their effort to avoid being found a racial gerrymander, they waved the flag that, well this is a political gerrymander.”

The problem with partisan gerrymandering, Curtis said, is that it’s an attack on democracy. The idea that legislators can do what they want to monopolize political power for as long as possible just because the courts may not strike it down is deplorable, he said.

“Opposition parties are good,” he said. “But the opposition parties are completely impotent [in the state], which is pretty much what happens if you have a really successful, super-duper gerrymander, and North Carolina’s is close to the top of super-duper gerrymanders.”

It’s likely that by this time next year, North Carolina will have clear direction from the courts on how to proceed with redistricting in the future, at least with regard to the level that race and politics can play into making the maps.