Alex Gimarc: On gerrymandering, the North Carolina decision changes everything



The Alaska Supreme Court has been mucking around in the redistricting wars for over 40 years.  This year was no exception, as the justices issued a ruling striking down the Redistricting Board map that favored Republicans and replaced it with their own map that favored democrats.  

Suzanne Downing a few weeks ago captured the game nicely, pointing out that apparently gerrymandering is bad unless done to favor Democrats, which automatically is a good thing to the Alaska Supremes.  

The case has been remanded to Superior Court where the Redistricting Board has 90 days to argue in favor of their final map and against the judicial takeover of the redistricting process. 

It would seem a lost cause, as the Alaska Supremes just anointed themselves the redistricting board in the future, and that the only allowable gerrymandering is that which favors democrats in the future.  

What has changed since they disgorged their 144-page list of legal excuses installing themselves as an extraconstitutional Redistricting Board?

North Carolina changed. And with it, maybe the entire shape of redistricting wars at the state level nationwide.

North Carolina is nominally a purple state, not unlike what Virginia has become over the last several decades, with a Democrat governor, the occasional Republican legislature, and an elected Supreme Court that swings from side to side. 

Breitbart: North Carolina Supreme Court strikes down redistricting maps

They are not so different from Alaska, with a very liberal judiciary, a closely split legislature, and the occasional Democrat governor (Gov. Bill Walker was our last one).

The last time Democrats were in charge of the whole mess, the Democrat majority on their Supreme Court struck down a Republican-drawn redistricting map by a 4-3 vote. 

This effort was led by Mark Elias, the legal point man for all Democrat attempts to rewrite state election laws and redistricting maps over the last couple decades.  Elias has his grubby little fingerprints all over the successful challenge and the NC Supreme Court opinion throwing it out.

But elections have consequences, and today there is a solid Republican majority on the NC Supreme Court and in the legislature. That court issued a couple opinions over the last few weeks. One reinstated the original redistricting map; the other reinstating a photo ID for voting.  You can find the 218 page redistricting opinion here.

It is an interesting read, as the majority noted that the state courts are not the place to decide policy fights, an opinion that echoes the Supreme Court “Dodd Opinion” on abortion last year, moving it from the high court back to the state legislatures to figure out.

If you take a look at the 144-page exercise in legalistic excuse making issued by the Alaska Supremes, you’ll be quickly struck by the incredibly twisted logic of the majority, noting that discrimination is bad unless they are the ones that get to do the discriminating; gerrymandering is bad unless they are the ones that get to do it; and the actions and interests of every single participant in the process ultimately meaningless unless their (the Alaska Supremes’) chosen side (Democrats in this case), get what they want.  

Basically, their action in adopting the democrat map completely undermines their excuse for throwing out the Redistricting Board’s original map.  

This is not impartial.  This is the majority installing themselves as a super legislature.  

If it were me, I’d march into court with the North Carolina opinion and point out that the courts are installing themselves as a political body in this, something unconstitutional under both the US and Alaska Constitutions, neither of which allow courts at any level to determine the apportionment for voting.  I’d also point out the mutually exclusive rationale and action by the Alaska Supreme Court.  

When the trial court and the Alaska Supremes issue their final ruling, installing the democrat map as state law, I’d appeal the entire mess to federal court with the argument that the Alaska courts are acting extra constitutionally, something they’ve been doing with elections for years.

I get it that redistricting is fundamentally a political process, and like all political processes here in the US, it is noisy, ugly, and chaotic. But that is our system of governance. 

When the courts install themselves as the ultimate arbiters of policy, they usurp the political power of everyone else in the state. 

When they actively exercise that usurped power in favor of one side of the political divide, they have ceased being judges and moved smartly into the realm of authoritarians and dictators, which I suppose is a cleaner form of governance, though it is hardly American.  

Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He was a small business owner and Information Technology professional.


  1. Of course, that’s not the only way of shifting the vote. How about releasing many acres of municipal property to a fly-by-night contractor to build subsidized shacks against the desires and building codes of the community. They will do anything to change the voting demographics of Chugiak/ Eagle River. 9-2, approved. Sign up for your 800 sf shack for a mere 400000. But don’t worry, the government will subsidize it you. The contractor pictures included palm trees, but with only a 5ft abatement between shacks, don’t count on it.

  2. Since when has our Supreme Court been impartial? When have they even tried to act impartial?

  3. It changes everything in North Carolina, this is Alaska. With genius gerrymanderers like Bethany Marcum, Democrats have nothing to fear

    • Reading comprehension, Frank.

      Your first sentence is what I expect out of the AK courts. The real game is in federal court.

      From here, it looks like the NC Supremes applied the new SCOTUS Dobbs logic and kicked it back to the legislature to solve, which reinstated the original NC map.

      I do expect the AK courts to fight this like a well-hooked red. And like most well, hooked reds, they will lose. Cheers –

      • The Alaska Constitution is different than North Carolina’s. Conservatives are extremely hypocritical, one day they are for State’s rights, the next day looking for a Trump appointed Feseral Judge. Time will tell.

    • Interesting you should mention Bethany, Frank. After what the democrats in the legislature did to her earlier this week, she is back at the Redistricting Board fully motivated with time on her hands. What better way to get even with those very same democrats than to install the original map? Revenge is a dish best served cold. You guys really aren’t gonna enjoy playing under your new rules. Cheers –

      • Marcum would have succeeded in gerrymandering the last time if she would have kept her lips sealed. Not sure what you mean by “You Guys”, I have been a registered Republican for over 40 years

        • “I have been a registered Republican for over 40 years”

          So you could vote in the primaries?

  4. I think Alex makes a brilliant argument. I hope someone takes him up on this idea and it goes all the way to the US supreme court to be settled once and for all.

    • North Carolina’s Constitution has their Supreme Court selected by the Legislature, SCOTUS has returned the case back to North Carolina after the Legislature flipped their Court from 4-3 Democratic to 5-2 Republican. What applies in North Carolina is totally different than in Alaska where Supreme Court Justices are selected by a Judicial Council. Conservatives like States rights when it benefits them and Federal rights by shopping for Federal Courts with Trump appointed Justices. In the end SCOTUS will not hear anything from North Carolina as their Constitution is different than other States and simply does not apply

  5. Of course they’re siding with democrats. They have to stop republican gerrymandering because they know that if they allow it they will lose. This is the last tool republicans have to still win elections. If democrats take this from us all we will get are democrats from now till the end of time.

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