Judges: Use special master maps for elections

Judges: Use special master maps for elections
January 25
05:00 2018

A federal three-judge panel has ruled that the N.C. legislative redistricting maps produced by its special master will be used for the upcoming 2018 midterm elections – the candidate filing period for which is scheduled to begin on Feb. 12 unless officially delayed.

And that delay very well may happen. Republican legislative leaders have vowed to, once again, appeal yet another negative redistricting ruling they don’t like to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It is a shocking move for one of the same judges just reigned in by a bipartisan U.S. Supreme Court less than 24 hours ago to again attempt to create chaos and confusion in an election process set to begin in just three weeks,” wrote Rep. David Lewis [R-Harnett] and Sen. Ralph Hise [ R-Mitchell], co-chairs of the joint Redistrict Committee, referring to U.S.  Fourth Circuit Court Judge James Wynn, who served on both separate three-judge panels that ruled against Republican N.C. redistricting plans for both congressional and legislative districts.

It was just two weeks ago that Judge Wynn, an Obama appointee, led two other District Court judges in ruling that the N.C. Legislature’s partisan congressional redistricting was unconstitutional, and ordered that they be immediately redrawn. State Republicans petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to stay that order, which it did last week, pending review.

NC Republicans are hoping the US High Court will also stay the legislative map order.

“It is now up to SCOTUS to preserve the role of State Legislatures under our Constitutional System,” tweeted Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the N.C. Republican Party.

Some legal analysts say while SCOTUS stayed the NC congressional redistricting ruling because the question of partisan gerrymandering is one yet to be decided by the US Supreme Court (a case involving Wisconsin was heard late last year, and a similar case in Maryland has yet to be heard), North Carolina’s legislative redistricting case was already proven to involve racial gerrymandering, which the High Court had already declared unconstitutional, and sent back to the three-judge panel to remedy after concurring.

Part of that remedy was ultimately ordering the special master redrawing on new legislative maps because the judicial panel determined that 9 of the 28 districts redrawn were still legally problematic.

Republicans are arguing the state legislature should have been given the opportunity to fix those nine districts, not the special master. The GOP adds that the court had no right appointing the special master to do their job.

In its 92-page order, the three-judge panel, this time led by federal District Court Judge Catherine Eagles, firmly disagreed.

“The [U.S.] Supreme court long has held that when a federal court concludes that a state districting plan violates the [U.S.] Constitution, the appropriate state redistricting body should have the first opportunity to enact a plan remedying the constitutional violation. But after finding unconstitutional race-based discrimination – as this Court did here – a district court also has a “duty” to ensure that any remedy “so far as possible eliminate(s) the discriminatory effects of the past as well as bar(s) like discrimination in the future.”

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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