Feds Strike Down 28 State DistrictsBy Cash Michaels, Contributing Writer / August 19, 2016
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Once again the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that North Carolina’s Republican-led General Assembly has illegally employed race to ensure partisan, yet unconstitutional outcomes. This time, it was nine state senate districts and 19 N.C. House districts of the state’s 170 legislative districts that the three-judge panel ruled were racially-gerrymandered in absence of any compelling state interests.
It’s called “stacking and packing,” where Democratic Black voters were drawn into majority-minority districts for the sole purpose removing them from swing districts so that White Republicans could easily defeat White Democrats.
Those legislative maps have already been used in two prior elections, and will be used again for the upcoming November 8th General Election because there isn’t time to redraw them, the federal appellate court said. But when the N.C. General Assembly goes back into session next January, the court has ordered it to redraw the voting districts so that the maps comply constitutionally for the 2018 elections.
Democrats statewide weren’t surprised, but they were outraged.
“This Republican legislature has broken a record enacting the highest number of unconstitutional laws ever, and all of them are raced-based,” Eric Ellison, chairman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party said in blunt terms. “They’re a bunch of racists, and our courts agree with us. These guys are underhanded, they don’t believe in the Constitution, they don’t believe in fairness, they don’t believe in democracy. They’re a bunch of crooks, and it’s time to get them out of office, and get new leadership in there, and the time to do it is now!”
Thirty-one North Carolina voters sued the N.C. legislature in May, 2015 in federal court, claiming that the 2011 district maps unnecessarily increased the number of Black voters in 28 districts under the guise of complying with the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Blacks and Whites were already in coalition electing Black candidates of their choice in those districts.
State Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr. was one of those Black lawmakers who previously enjoyed strong support from a racial coalition of support which included 42 percent of Black voters from Durham and Granville County. But his district lines were suddenly changed in 2011 to where he had over 50 percent Black voters in his district.
Indeed, prior to 2011, not one state Senate district represented by an African American had a majority of Black voters, because it wasn’t necessary. The 2015 federal lawsuit charged that the 2011 Republican redistricting was just a ruse to feign compliance with the 1965 VRA in order to gain political advantage.
“They were just packing African Americans into those districts, and making it more likely that Republicans would win the other ones,” Sen. McKissick said.
When state lawmakers return in January, their first order of business will be to redraw the 28 legislative districts so that they are in constitutional compliance, McKissick says. The legislature can still draw majority-minority districts, just as long as it can legally demonstrate candidates are more likely to be elected because of race, observers say.