Blue: Special election will happen

Sen. Daniel T. Blue Jr.

Blue: Special election will happen
March 30
08:00 2017



The state Senate minority leader says he is “confident” that the U.S. Supreme Court will affirm a federal three-judge panel’s ruling last August that North Carolina’s 2011 redistricting maps were unconstitutional because of racial gerrymandering, and that there will be a new map drawn, and special elections held this year.

State Sen. Daniel T. Blue Jr. [D-Wake] made that observation during a town hall meeting he conducted in Raleigh March 23. What made the Democrat Senate leader’s remarks pertinent was that that three-judge panel ruled last year prior to the 2016 elections, further ordering that the NC General Assembly redrawn the 2011 maps by March 15, and special elections be held by this November, with primaries in late August, early September.

But U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily blocked that order in January after Republican state lawmakers petitioned for an emergency stay. Subsequently, nothing has been heard from the High Court since then, leaving both state Democrats and Republicans anxious.

Republican legislative leaders say the 2011 redistrict-ing maps are legal and constitutional, therefore there should be no redo, and special elections are not needed before the regularly scheduled 2018 NC legislative elections.

“[We] …  are grateful the U.S. Supreme Court has quashed judicial activism and rejected an attempt to nullify the votes of North Carolinians in the 2016 legislative elections,” said Senate President Pro tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) in a joint statement then.

Democrats, however, disagree. They say the three-judge federal panel found that 28 of North Carolina’s House and Senate districts around Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, Raleigh and Fayetteville, along with rural areas in eastern North Carolina, were drawn in violation of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the use of race as a primary factor in redistricting. Democrats further claim that the Republican legislative majority deliberately “stacked-and-packed” black Democrats into as few majority-minority districts as possible, thus illegally diluting black voting strength in predominantly white voting districts, so that Republicans could dominate in surrounding districts and easily win those elections.

“I’m confident, and most of the lawyers who practice in this area [of law] …are confident that the [U.S.] Supreme Court, when they look at the case, because it has been appealed up there, will uphold the findings of the federal court that this is unconstitutional,” Sen. Blue said last Thursday in Raleigh, adding, “The case law says they have no choice.”

One of the reasons for Sen. Blue’s confidence, he said, was when the U.S. High Court sent a case back to Alabama, which was the case which opened the floodgates on this and gave us the legal authority to bring these lawsuits, it was a 5-4 majority. The comforting fact was that Justice Antonin Scalia, who died, was in the minority, so there still is a five-vote majority, 5-3 now. Even if  President Trump nominee Judge Neil Gorsach is confirmed, there still is a 5-4 majority.

“I really think that the ultimate decision that comes from the United States Supreme Court, very well could be a 7-2 decision, or maybe even an 8-0 decision, because redistricting was so bad and so egregious in North Carolina, that anybody who studies these maps and looks at their background … [sees] clearly that they are unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment -equal protection under the law.”

Time is getting tight, however, for new maps to be drawn, and special primaries, and November elections, to be scheduled. Still, Blue holds out hope the High Court won’t wait much longer to decide, and the 2011 “unconstitutional” redistricting maps will be mothballed.

“We think that that’s going to be changed, and that will then change the veto-proof majority. [in the NC General Assembly],” Sen. Blue said. “It will make the governor more relevant because his statewide impressions and opinions on things will then make a difference.”

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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