Briefs

Was Art Pope running the redistricting show?

By: - December 27, 2012 10:47 am

Newly-appointed state budget director Art Pope was in the room — literally — when dark money-funded groups worked behind the scenes with Republican state legislators and operatives in 2010 to draw up the redistricting maps which led to the party’s sweep of state and federal legislative races this year, according to an article last week on the watchdog journalism site ProPublica.

Drawing from documents produced in the lawsuits challenging those maps, Pro Publica describes how Republican legislators and operatives hired Republican State Leadership Group redistricting map guru Tom Hofeller to craft voting districts that would “virtually guarantee big gains for the party.”  Hofeller set about packing minority voters into a few districts, so that surrounding districts could become more Republican.  The plan was, according to one Hofeller email,  to “incorporate all the significant concentrations of minority voters in the northeast into the first district.”

Pro Publica also details how a mysteriously-funded nonprofit called  Fair and Legal Redistricting for North Carolina sprung up after Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2010. That group hired a mapping technician named Joel Raupe to work day-to-day on redistricting efforts at party headquarters on Hillsborough Street, with Republican state legislative leaders visiting frequently and consulting with the team there.

Working right along side of Raupe was Art Pope, appointed “‘co-counsel’ to the legislative leadership and allowed in the room to give direct instructions to the technician.”

“”We worked together at the workstation,” said Raupe, the technical expert paid by Fair and Legal Redistricting, in a deposition. “He sat next to me.”

Pope is now claiming that because he was acting as a legal adviser for the state, any information about his involvement in the redistricting effort is privileged and should not be disclosed in the lawsuits.

The question of what information about the redistricting process must be disclosed in the lawsuits, and what can be withheld on privilege grounds, was argued before the state Supreme Court in July and is awaiting decision.

Read more about what Pro Publica had to say about the Republican redistricting effort and its effect on this year’s election here.

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Sharon McCloskey

Sharon McCloskey, former Courts, Law and Democracy Reporter for N.C. Policy Watch, writes about the courts and decisions that impact North Carolina residents. McCloskey also wrote for Lawyers Weekly and practiced law for more than 20 years. Follow her online at sharonmccloskey.com or @sharonmccloskey.

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