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Plaintiff In N.C. Gerrymandering Case Speaks About Judges' Decision

Jan 10, 2018
Originally published on January 10, 2018 9:55 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now we're going to hear from one of the plaintiffs in that case. Jake Quinn and his wife moved to Asheville, N.C., 13 years ago after he retired from the FDIC in Washington. And he joins us from North Carolina's capital, Raleigh. Welcome to the program.

JAKE QUINN: Thank you, Ari. It's great to be here.

SHAPIRO: North Carolina has 13 congressional districts, and 10 of those seats are held by Republicans. This is in a purple state that voted for Donald Trump in the same election that it elected a Democratic governor. So what made you think this is not just unfair to Democrats but potentially illegal.

QUINN: The fact that the lines drawn in my state snake around in the strangest ways. Ari, we had an event in Asheville a couple of months ago. It was called the Gerrymander 5K, and we had people run and walk along the dividing line that separates the 10th and 11th districts, and people were going through neighborhoods. They were sneaking and snaking around little streets and alleys. And this was the congressional boundary. You know in your gut there is something wrong with this. And I joined the lawsuit in hopes that the judiciary would understand the problem and require our general assembly to remedy it. And I am very heartened to see that they have taken that approach.

SHAPIRO: Well, Republicans say that they're going to appeal the ruling. The Supreme Court could take up the case. And of course, the clock is ticking down to November's midterm elections. Do you think this ruling will take effect in time for voting this year?

QUINN: I think that our general assembly is going to have to follow the three-judge panel's order to draw new districts. But I believe that the legal appeals process will result in us not getting to use those new lines until 2020. Candidate filing in North Carolina begins next month. I think just in practical terms we're looking at 2020.

SHAPIRO: And North Carolina's legislature is still controlled by Republicans. For them to redraw the congressional map in a way that conforms to the court's ruling, it seems like there's a lot of leeway there. Who's to say whether they're doing a fair job or not?

QUINN: Well, Ari, there was a redistricting case where our state Senate and House districts had to be redrawn. And the general assembly did not tackle that effort in good faith whereupon the judges appointed a special master to draw the district boundaries because the general assembly wouldn't do it properly. In the decision that was handed down yesterday, the special master will be working on new district lines in parallel with the general assembly so that if the general assembly does not deliver a suitable product, the three-judge panel will immediately turn to the product of the special master and use that instead.

SHAPIRO: There are a couple of redistricting cases headed to the Supreme Court apart from this North Carolina case from Wisconsin and Maryland. How do you think the national conversation on gerrymandering is changing?

QUINN: I think that the overwhelming majority of Americans are fed up with political parties trying to rig the system. Republicans rigged it in North Carolina. Democrats rigged it in Maryland. Both of them are antithetical to our republican democracy. And more and more, we are hearing loud cries for nonpartisan redistricting reform. That's what we want in North Carolina. I don't want the Democrats to control it. I don't want the Republicans to control it or libertarians or unaffiliateds (ph). I want the people to control it. It's their election.

SHAPIRO: Jake Quinn, a plaintiff in the North Carolina redistricting case, thanks for your time.

QUINN: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.