Federal Court orders N.C. to redraw legislative districtsPeacemaker Staff Reports / December 2, 2016
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On Tuesday, a three-judge federal court panel ruled that North Carolina lawmakers must redraw the state’s House and Senate districts by March 15, 2017 and hold an election by next November (2017) with a Primary in late August or early September. Tuesday’s order by the court stated, “While special elections have costs, those costs pale in comparison to the injury caused by allowing citizens to continue to be represented by legislators elected pursuant to a racial gerrymander.”
Federal court proceedings held last August determined the districts, as drawn in 2011 by the state’s Republican dominated legislature, to be racially gerrymandered. At that time, the panel ruled nine state Senate districts and 19 state House districts created in 2011 were unconstitutional.
Districts in Guilford County affected by the federal ruling are as follows: Senate Districts 28, currently represented by Gladys Robinson; House District 57, represented by Pricey Harrison; House District 58, represented by Chris Sgro (Amos Quick elected to take office in January); and House District 60, represented by Cecil Brockman. Elections will be held to fill the 28 N.C. House and Senate seats.
Republicans have promised to appeal Tuesday’s decision. Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) and Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg), chairmen of the N.C. House and Senate Redistricting Committees, released a statement calling the ruling a “politically motivated” abuse of judicial authority and “a gross overreach that blatantly disregards the constitutional guarantee for voters to duly elect their legislators to biennial terms.”
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice challenged North Carolina’s latest political maps in 2015, saying legislative district lines were drawn in 2011 in order to dilute the state’s Black vote and give Republicans an advantage.
Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, said, “Once again, unconstitutional gerrymandering by the legislature has led to litigation and now the need to hold a special election. This is a golden opportunity for state lawmakers to put North Carolina voters ahead of partisan politics and establish an independent process for re-drawing the state’s legislative maps free from gerrymandering.”
One week ago, another three-judge U.S. court panel ruled in a similar redistricting case that state assembly districts in Wisconsin, as redrawn by its Republican-led legislature, were unconstitutionally gerrymandered.
The U.S. Supreme Court is slated to hear a similar racial gerrymandering lawsuit involving North Carolina’s congressional districts. The high court could affirm, limit or overturn the August ruling on the legislative maps.