N.C. NAACP joins plaintiffs’ argument for special electionsBy Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Contributor / July 15, 2017
In an amicus brief filed in U.S. Middle District Court in Winston-Salem Tuesday, attorneys for the N.C. NAACP joined plaintiffs versus the State of North Carolina in petitioning for voting districts to be redrawn and special legislative elections be conducted immediately.
“Today, we have asked the court to take the redistricting process out of the hands of the people who illegally used race to create a legislature that does not represent the state of North Carolina equally or fairly,” said Irv Joyner, legal redress chair for the N.C. NAACP, referring to the Republican-led N.C. legislature. “The appointment of a Special Master and a judicial remedy will ensure the possibility of a non-discriminatory election in 2017 to start to renew the trust of North Carolinians in our state’s representative democracy.”
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding a lower court ruling that the N.C. Republican-led legislature’s 2011 redistricting maps were racially gerrymandered, and thus unconstitutional, also ordered a three-judge federal panel that originally ruled the voting districts illegal to take up the matter again.
In the July 11 brief, attorneys for the N.C. NAACP wrote, “North Carolinians have lived for nearly six years under a state legislature that was constructed, as this Court held and the U.S. Supreme Court summarily affirmed, from unconstitutional, racially gerrymandered 2011 legislative maps. The new maps segregated White and Black voters by mechanically adding Black voters to election districts in concentrations not authorized or compelled under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, thereby “bleaching” adjacent districts of voters of color and frustrating their ability to vote in alliance with a growing, multiracial fusion electorate that bridges racial divides and mitigates the effects of racially polarized voting.”
The brief continued, “Plaintiffs argued in their response to this Court’s June 9, 2017 Notice, that the scope of the 2011 gerrymander is extensive: Defendants’ unconstitutional race-based decision-making has infected at least 77 out of North Carolina’s 100 counties, and impacted 83 percent of the state’s population.”
“This racial classification scheme, with no legal justification, thus denied millions of voters equal protection under the law, and created a governing majority wholly unresponsive to black voters.”
The N.C. NAACP brief then asked the court, “Equity demands immediate special elections and other urgent relief, and this Court is justified in taking such action. Accordingly, the N.C. NAACP respectfully requests that the Court order Special Elections in 2017; retain a Special Master to oversee the drawing of constitutional maps; and enjoin all further legislative action by the illegitimate General Assembly.”
That three-judge federal panel has asked plaintiffs and attorneys for the state to submit briefs and prepare for arguments at an unspecified date. Most legal and political observers believe it is not likely that special elections can be held by November of this year at this point.
Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, called state lawmakers into special session a few weeks ago to redraw the voting districts before they recessed their long session last Friday, but Republican leaders refused, saying the governor’s request was unconstitutional.
Instead, GOP legislative leaders said, they’ll take up the issue during a special session in August and September.
Some political observers believe Republicans have already redrawn the unconstitutional maps, and are just waiting for the court to order them to produce them.
By redrawing the maps now before ordered, would allow Republican leaders from trying to keep the federal court from redrawing the legislative district lines itself.
“This bad faith, all-White caucus created by racist maps must be stopped,” explained Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP, and convener of the Forward Together Moral Movement. “If the current unaccountable and unrepentant General Assembly is allowed to continue to act in the name of North Carolina, the consequences are dangerous for people of color, for those living in poverty, for women, for immigrant communities, for the LGBT community, for workers, and for our children. There can be no further question about whether this General Assembly is illegitimate. The federal courts have ruled…”