Redistricting case to be heard by N.C. High CourtBy Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / January 19, 2022
The seven justices of the North Carolina Supreme Court will hear arguments in the recently appealed redistricting case that a three-judge Superior Court panel unanimously ruled in favor of Republican legislative leaders, despite claims of racial and partisan unconstitutionality.
The four Democrat, three Republican-member High Court will hear virtual arguments on February 2nd. The plaintiffs – North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, Inc. and Common Cause – appealed the January 11th decision, and is expected to have their briefs, and corresponding responses, submitted to the court by January 31st.
In their January 11th decision, the three-judge panel, consisting of two Republicans and one Democrat, ruled that despite how unfairly the legislative and Congressional voting districts were redrawn to give Republicans a decidedly overwhelming advantage in upcoming elections over the next ten years, they were nonetheless legal.
“This court neither condones the enacted maps nor their anticipated potential results,” the three-judge Superior Court panel wrote in its 260-page decision. “Despite our disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our state to ridicule, this court must remind itself that these maps are the result of a democratic process.”Veterans of the N.C. redistricting process, like N.C. Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue (D-Wake), were not pleased with the ruling.
“To have an unleveled playing field…with this extreme partisan gerrymandering, is against the concepts of democracy and those clauses in the state Constitution that ensure that we are a government of the people, by the people and for the people – not one for politicians,” Sen. Blue said.
Other Democrats have also charged that the maps dilute Black voting strength.
During the course of the recent Superior Court trial, the Republican map maker admitted to using outside maps to assist in drawing the final House version, which was contrary to the GOP promise to make the map drawing process transparent.
“…Republicans lied to their colleagues when they promised a fair and transparent redistricting process,” said N.C. Democratic Party Chairwoman Bobbie Richardson. “They cheated by using secret maps and closed-door strategy sessions, then destroyed the maps they used. They are trying to steal seats through illegal partisan gerrymandering and are choosing to proceed with costly litigation that hardworking taxpayers will pay for.”
Republicans countered that they did nothing wrong, followed guidance not to use racial data, and were as open as possible in what they produced.Three pending lawsuits challenging the Republican-drawn redistricting maps were consolidated into one in order for N.C. High Court review.
Candidate filing for the March 2022 primaries has been delayed by the N.C. High Court to May 17, in order to expedite judicial review of the new maps and allow for time to redraw them if necessary. The January 11th decision also mandated that candidate filing resume on Feb. 24th, through noon March 4th.
Published reports say the primaries could be delayed until June.
Various Democratic leaders, including Gov. Roy Cooper, complained that if approved, the new GOP maps would produce eleven Republican congresspeople out of fourteen congressional districts, as well as very few competitive legislative voting districts in the state House and Senate.
First District Congressman G. K. Butterfield, a Democrat, has already announced that he will not run for re-election because his congressional district was redrawn to the extent where he could not win.
Voting districts are redrawn every ten years in order to account for how much a state’s population expands or shrinks in order to produce proportional representation in the N.C. General Assembly and Congress