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CoastLine: UNC President Emeritus Tom Ross On Nonpartisan Redistricting

University of North Carolina
Tom Ross, President of the Volcker Alliance; Former President of UNC

Update:  On Thursday, January 18th, the Supreme Court granted a stay so that legislators do not have to meet the lower court's deadline.  The Court is considering two other gerrymandering cases in Wisconsin and Maryland and offered no reason for its ruling. 

North Carolina State legislators were facing a tight deadline to redraw congressional districts.  The late January deadline came from a ruling earlier this month by a three-judge panel that found North Carolina’s congressional districts to be unconstitutional – because they were so gerrymandered that they violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution by favoring one political party over another.  In other words, the judges concluded the districts are unconstitutional because they are partisan gerrymanders. 

According to The Atlantic, this decision marks the first time a federal court has ever struck down a redistricting plan as a partisan gerrymander.

The Associated Press reports that the plaintiffs in the North Carolina lawsuit filed briefs yesterday with Chief Justice John Roberts. They're responding to GOP legislative leaders' request for Roberts to delay enforcement of the ruling.

On this edition of CoastLine, we’re going to explore redistricting reform – what that really means through a nonpartisan lens – and why its important.  We’ll also find out how partisan gerrymandering impacts the workings of democracy.

Our guide on this exploration: 

Tom Ross is President of the Volcker Alliance, a nonpartisan, nonprofit dedicated to the effective execution of public policies and rebuilding public trust in government  He is also President Emeritus of the 17-campus University of North Carolina system.  Tom Ross serves as the Sanford Distinguished Fellow in Public Policy at Duke University.   Before his time as UNC System President, he was President of Davidson College.  He’s served as a Superior Court judge and worked as an Assistant Professor of Public Law and Government at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government.  

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.