The General Assembly and the Equal Protection Clause: A Love Story | Triangulator | Indy Week
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The General Assembly and the Equal Protection Clause: A Love Story 

The Equal Protection Clause is the last section of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; it says that no state can "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." Like the entire Fourteenth Amendment, it was designed by Republicans to ensure basic rights for African-Americans after the Civil War.

Fast-forward 150 years, and Republicans in the General Assembly seem to have had a falling out with Equal Protection. On four separate occasions this year alone, federal judges found them in violation of the Equal Protection Clause, culminating in last week's ruling that 28 of the state's 170 legislative districts are blatantly unconstitutional. And that isn't all: the ACLU's case against the state over HB 2 alleges that law violates the Equal Protection Clause as well. That one goes before a judge in November.

click to enlarge ILLUSTRATION BY CHRIS WILLIAMS
  • Illustration by Chris Williams

Let's take a trip down Memory Lane, shall we?

FEBRUARY 5: A three-judge panel in the Middle District of North Carolina found that the First and Twelfth Congressional Districts were racially gerrymandered. Later that month, the General Assembly was called into a special session to redraw the maps.

JULY 1: The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Chad Barefoot-led redistricting of the Wake County school board and county commission was unconstitutional, in that it violates the equal protection clauses of both the federal and state constitutions. On August 9, U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III ruled that the 2011 Wake County maps would be used for the November election, spurring a new filing period for the Wake County school board and costing at least one Wake County commissioner, Caroline Sullivan, her seat, as she filed to run in a district that no longer exists.

JULY 29: The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that North Carolina's 2013 voter ID law was discriminatory. Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote, "The photo ID requirement, the reduction in days of early voting, and the elimination of same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration ... were enacted with racially discriminatory intent in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and § 2 of the Voting Rights Act." A double whammy.

AUGUST 11: A three-judge panel on the U.S. Middle District Court, including Bush appointee and HB 2 case judge Thomas Schroeder, unanimously ruled that twenty-eight legislative districts are—you guessed it—racially gerrymandered and in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. But the judges decided that the districts wouldn't be changed before November 8, meaning that the legislators who drew unconstitutional districts will get to run for reelection in those districts. Lucky us.

triangulator@indyweek.com

  • Four times this year, courts have ruled state laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment

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