“Illegally Constituted” Legislatures..

Every once in a while, I read a news release that makes me go “wow!” I read this one twice–and I love it.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins struck downtwo of the state constitutional amendments passed by North Carolina voters last November. But the reason he gave for his decision was remarkable: in his view, the state legislature is so gerrymandered as to be an illegitimate body that doesn’t really represent voters, and thus had no authority to alter the state constitution.

“An illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution,” wrote Collins.

The amendments that were struck down by this ruling were an amendment requirement that voters present a strict photo ID at the polls, which is almost identical to a previous law a federal court said targeted African Americans “with almost surgical precision,” and an amendment capping the state income tax rate at 7 percent, which was a huge gift to the wealthy that jeopardized the state budget.

North Carolina voters had approved four constitutional amendments in a referendum, and the Judge let two of them go into effect. He found that the legislature’s description of the two amendments he struck down had been misleading. (A court had previously invalidated  an earlier draft of language explaining the amendments.)

North Carolina has been called the most aggressively gerrymandered state in the country, and a case challenging its current legislative and congressional districts will be heard by the Supreme Court during its next term.

The Judge’s decision will, of course, be appealed, and there is no telling what the final outcome will be, but the decision ranks right up there with the pronouncement by a clear-eyed child in the well-known story: “the Emperor has no clothes.”

A few days ago, I cited David Leonhardt’s column in the New York Times, in which he catalogued state legislative actions contrary to the clear desires of the relevant voters, and I compared those examples to the repeated refusal of Indiana’s lawmakers to act on the demonstrable wishes of Hoosier voters that they pass a hate crimes bill.

Thanks to the prevalence of gerrymandering (and assorted other political “dirty tricks” including vote suppression), America currently has several state legislatures that meet Judge Collins’ criteria for illegitimacy.

When the “clothing” of rhetoric is stripped away, the fact that we no longer have a genuine democracy is the “naked” truth.

Three cheers for Judge Collins and his willingness to call it like it is.


  1. It is very nice when a judge does the right thing. Going forward, we are going to see more crazy rulings from the hundreds of crazy right wing Republican judges put in place by Rev Pence and the Orange menace with full support of the Republicans in Washington.

  2. “…the fact that we no longer have a genuine democracy is the “naked” truth.”

    So, someone please tell me how we restore democracy using democratic means when we have no democracy. Locally, the cry to “just get out the vote” rings hollow after the Indianapolis Star report on how the Marion County Democrat Party picks its candidates in such a way that voters are given no choice in the primaries.

  3. Wisconsin should be next. In November last, Democrats running for state legislature polled about 10% more votes than Republicans, but Republicans still hold a 60+% majority.

    I remember Karl Rove shooting off his mouth about North Carolina in 2008 when Obama won that state by a point or two. Rove encouraged the GOP to go after the voters there, and the equally egregious Art Pope went and did just that. Pope, BTW, is the poor man’s Sam Walton there. Operative word: poor. Pope invaded the poor neighborhoods with cut-rate stores and drove local merchants out of business. What a guy!

    It was Art Pope who paid for the Republican candidates for all the state legislature elections and made sure that horrible governor was put in place too. His reward? Sec. of state treasury in North Carolina. You can’t make this up.

  4. No, you can’t make it up, Vernon. Art is a real POS.

    Indiana’s districts are a fraud and if we only had independent judges who could rule against our faux democracy. It certainly would be refreshing and could possibly bring back my faith in the justice system. We’ll need many more Bryan Collins for that to happen.

    I thought it was hilarious that Governor Holcomb has deferred marijuana legalization to the federal government. Huh??

    Since when does an Indiana Republican defer any decision over to the federal government?

    Gamesmanship, nothing else. What was their problem again with the Affordable Care Act?

    Oh yea, it was the federal government telling the states what to do. The GOP hates that! 😉

  5. The first step to restoration of democracy is to get out the vote. It may seem hackneyed and laughable, but when 40% of those eligible don’t bother to show up, you have minority rule. At best 31% of the population is calling the shots for the other 69%. If someone tells you his or her vote doesn’t count anyway, please assure them that it certainly doesn’t if it isn’t cast in the first place.

  6. It’s heartening to know there are still some in positions of power with integrity. We saw it yesterday with Elijah Cummings. Long life to all of them, because we need their grit in these times of greed and corruption.
    And thank you, Ms Kennedy, for what you do.

  7. Indy and other fellow commentators – welcome to Tar Heel state politics! You think you got it bad? Y’all ain’t seen nothing yet!

  8. I, too, applaud the superior court’s decision and his reasons for it, but I have a prediction > that it will be overturned on appeal. Why? Well, there is good reason to believe that the tentacles of this perhaps most gerrymandered state in the union have penetrated the appellate judiciary there and that the majority on appeal will find some grounds upon which to reverse, probably a good guy holding that says courts should not be in charge of reversing the will of the people, that it is a political question to be decided at the polls etc.

    I fear even if gerrymandering were outlawed that it would take many years for its tentacles to go their way among those state officials who have so successfully used this anti-democratic system of voter suppression leading to minority rule for so long. However, Nostradamus I am not, and I hope I am wrong. Perhaps appellate courts in North Carolina and elsewhere are finally coming to the conclusion that democracy and gerrymandering cannot coexist and choose the former, and perhaps due to the groundbreaking conclusion of this trial judge in North Carolina. I hope so.

  9. Personally after yesterday and the testimony I watched and the actions of both sides of the isle, I would have to say the republicans have a lot of crow to eat! Their great fearless thug is a traitor, a felon many times over and we are now going to enter a very dangerous time in our nation’s history – just as in Rome will we see someone rise and bring on the trials of the traitors… or are we looking at the re-creation of the famous story of Nero – fiddling as Rome burned? Either way all I can say is we are living in ‘interesting times’ – I just hope ‘we’ the People of the United States of America – a ‘democracy’ survive to find out – and still under a Democracy!

  10. I await the time when a court declares our current presidency “illegally constituted”, and invalidates it’s appointments, laws and EOs signed, treaties broken, etc. – everything it has done since Jan. 20, 2017.

  11. The Right Wing Reactionary Republicans and their allies always remain on the attack on many different fronts. The hearings yesterday in DC with Michael Cohen had on display all the vitriol they could muster. So many people close to President Agent Orange are now felons.

    It was funny to see and hear the Reactionary Right Wing Republicans rage about Cohen’s lies in the past, while they totally ignore all the lies told by President Agent Orange, starting with the size of his inauguration crowd.

    Cohen, 51, began working for Trump in 2006 as a lawyer and going on to hold the title of executive vice-president at the Trump Organization. The Reactionary Right Wing Republicans painted themselves into a corner as they castigated Cohen, because it was none other than Donald Trump who hired him.

    Now President Agent Oranges hyped up meeting: Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi collapses after negotiations fail. The collapse of the two leaders’ talks came suddenly.

    Wow, the FOX Network is going to have to really spin these events hard. There was grumbling about the Cohen hearings undermining Trump-Kim summit.

  12. Gerald,

    I think the central problem with the courts voiding gerrymandering is this. What provision of the U.S. constitution is violated by drawing the districts, albeit for naked political purposes, this way or that way, but each holding the same population?

    Some State constitutions have provisions that can be used to limit or curtail it, but a sweeping federal prohibition is unlikely (unfortunately).


  13. A court ruling in Pennsylvania found their gerrymandering process illegal and corrected things which made a huge difference in the 2018 Congressional elections.

    We can restore democracy just not all at once.

  14. Sheila: When the “clothing” of rhetoric is stripped away, the fact that we no longer have a genuine democracy is the “naked” truth.

    Maybe the battle is all over, and maybe democracy has already lost. Yesterday in Chicago in an election critical to decisions on pensions, education and crime, two black women, both democrats, won enough votes to compete in a runoff to decide which will be Rahm Emmanuel’s successor. That’s the upside of the story. The downside is that only 34% of registered voters bothered to go to the poles. Sixty-six percent elected not to participate. What does democracy mean when only a small percentage of eligible voters choose to cast a ballot? Maybe the Trump atrocities are no greater threat than voter apathy. Do we need a Special Counsel to investigate why so many Americans are willing to give up on democracy without a fight?

  15. As we saw yesterday, Republicans are pre-disposed to throw up all over themselves. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows were disgraceful and showed how short the Republican bench really is. They blasted Cohen for lying, but he was lying to protect the orange hairball. DUH!

    Since the Republican agenda has nothing to offer the American people except deceit, lies, cheating and graft, they were bound to attack anything that represents democracy. They all need to be voted out….or something.

  16. as the voter sits on thier hands,and never see the inside of a issue,or read about them, few ever know what it all piles up to be. the above case,is typical in nature,but short on getting like measures thru a court,and get a valid judgement like the above. if i was talking to the many that i converse with, they wouldn’t have a clue,unless it effected them,or bubba down the road. ( and you know how that conversation would be like,yup)ive followed a few civil rights cases,a few supreme court cases,and some local stuff. the arguments are really the beef. when all said and done,though i have no legal exp, i am amazed how some even dry rhetoric can change the judges opinion,,,and side where you would think it never had a chance. either way, we see how the republicans are shoving their chosen few into jobs beyond the means of their picks. and some with adownright corrupt interlude. if and when some of these appointees get a open mind, and have some looking back,at why they are there, maybe some of those courts will see matters diffrently. ive been looking at CJ Roberts opinions and some judgements, maybe hes the new swing vote? if they are looking at textural law, im hoping they send a presidence for law,to be , by the constitution,and not by some religious theology,or some glory be shit from the right…

  17. Speaking of LYING and DISGRACEFUL members of Congress at yesterday’s hearing, Clay Higgins from Louisiana takes the proverbial cake.

    I came up for air when he started his disgusting speech by stating that he had made “thousands” of arrests during his law enforcement career. That statement was so far fetched that I couldn’t believe the crowd wasn’t gasping at the lie. He continued on that in his experience even when people served time for crimes they continued to lie and commit crimes because they were the same people.

    I googled Clay Higgins – he has quite the criminal history himself. He is proof positive that you can commit criminal acts for years and still be elected to Congress. If any of you are interested in a bit of entertainment, or at the very least some knowledge of what law enforcement officials can get away with, then please google Clay Higgins. He got into trouble at both police departments that he worked at and quit both before he was fired. An all around disgusting man.

    Here is a quick reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clay_Higgins

  18. Vernon; what I found ridiculous about Jordan and Meadows repeatedly blasting Cohen for lying, that is why the hearing (which Jordan tried to postpone) was scheduled, for the public to know the lies and learn some truths. The complaints about the Cohen hearing being scheduled the same day as the Trump/Kim “summit” seemed to forget it had been scheduled for a week between two “closed door” hearings, with time to change all three. Republican complaints about receiving the Cohen documents the night before, giving them little time to examine; they did the same thing to Democrats regarding the Kavanaugh documents. We are not supposed to remember these things or notice that the Republicans have all picked up Trump’s ugly demeanor and pissy attitude toward anyone who does not agree with them. I wonder how much of Cohen’s testimony was watched by Kim and his group; it was obvious both sides came to that “summit” prepared only to walk away with nothing accomplished. Did the information from Cohen that Trump is still being investigated for more illegal actions end the “summit” sooner than expected? Questions we will never get answers to; but Trump seemed more than a little subdued after the events of Wednesday on both continents.

    Our Legislature seems to be wasting a great deal of time and tax dollars scheduling meetings with no real agenda, offering no results and of questionable Constitutional support.

  19. Brilliant in its simplicity and accurate in a general application of two basicConstitutional provisions. The guarantee the people of the states of a”republican” form of government and 15th amendment guarantee to formerly enslaved persons and their descendants the full rights of citizenship…including the right of representation and franchise….in perpetuity. The right to vote is not whole without an equal opportunity of its impact.

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