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Thursday, February 8, 2018

North Carolina’s Redistricting Fight Ain’t Over Yet

Posted by on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 9:08 AM

This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.

So you thought that, since the Supreme Court weighed in Tuesday, North Carolina’s gerrymandering redistricting saga was, if not over, then at a resting point. You were wrong.
  • From the N&O: “Democrats and voters who filed the first lawsuit this decade challenging North Carolina lawmakers’ redistricting plans went back to state court on Wednesday, seven years after challenging the 2011 election maps, seeking relief from districts they contend still weaken the overall influence of black voters. The request comes the day after the U.S. Supreme Court partially granted a request from Republican lawmakers to block election lines drawn by a Stanford University law professor for four state House districts in Wake County and one House district in Mecklenburg County while they appealed a three-judge panel’s ruling. Republicans contended in the federal case that some of the legal questions should have been settled in state court because they involved questions about violations to the state constitution, but now they are speaking out against further proceedings there.”
  • “‘The stay entered yesterday by the United States Supreme Court does not deprive this state court of the authority or duty to interpret the state constitution and to ensure that Joint Plaintiffs are afforded full constitutional relief,’ the 15-page request for relief submitted by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice states. The challengers asked the state court to block the use of five state House districts adopted by the Republican lawmakers last year for Wake and Mecklenburg counties and order them to use election districts drawn by Nathaniel Persily, the Stanford University professor hired by the federal court as a ‘special master.’ Dallas Woodhouse, North Carolina Republican Party executive director, criticized the move as ‘Hail Mary efforts by the other side.’”
  • Woodhouse isn’t entirely wrong about it being a Hail Mary. But it’s worth noting that the Republicans’ appeal to the Supreme Court was rooted in the idea that this was a state matter. So the plaintiffs went to state court to make their case. It’s not an entirely illogical move.
  • Representative David Lewis, an architect of the state’s legislative gerrymanders: “Here we go again,” Lewis said. “These liberal, dark money groups, financed and controlled by allies of the Democratic Party, are determined to use and abuse the court system to achieve unprecedented chaos. In short it appears that they will sue until North Carolina is blue, despite what the people, despite what the voters, want. … This is all part of President Obama and Eric Holder’s plan to sue all Republican states while ignoring egregious blue states like Maryland and Illinois.”

WHAT IT MEANS: In this week’s paper, the INDY has a story (from one of my intrepid interns) about the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ visit to Raleigh last week. A common complaint there was that the disputed congressional and legislative Republicans drew to benefit Republicans mean that the sitting legislature is effectively illegitimate, as the members are drawn from unconstitutional districts.
  • The legislative maps that Persily drew at a federal court’s order aimed to correct some of the racial discrepancies, which would have the effect of giving Democrats a boost in this year’s election. And while the Supreme Court did not completely throw out Persily’s districts, it stayed a federal court from implementing them in Wake and Mecklenburg County, apparently acceding to the GOP’s claim that this is a state issue. If this hodgepodge of Persily/NCGA districts holds up for November, Republicans would appear to be in a stronger position, which is why they’re fighting the federal court so hard.

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