Again, N.C. High Court must review redistricting

Again, N.C. High Court must review redistricting
June 01
05:00 2017

For a third time since 2011, the state Supreme Court will have to review North Carolina’s legislative and congressional redistricting maps, and this time, North Carolina justices will have to heed the U.S. High Court’s finding that the state’s redistricting process is unconstitutionally flawed because of racial gerrymandering.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday sent a 2011 redistricting lawsuit, Dickson v. Rucho, back to the North Carolina justices again after the federal High Court ruled last week that the state’s Republican-led General Assembly “stacked-and-packed” black Democrats into the 1st and 12th Congressional Districts so that they would have less influence in other congressional districts.

In 2015, the GOP-led N.C. Supreme Court ignored federal direction that the 2011 maps were racially skewed, ruling instead that the overuse of race in the voting maps was entirely proper.

That ruling is not likely to return now that the N.C. Supreme Court has a 5-4 Democratic majority.

“The N.C. Supreme Court is given another opportunity to correct its ill-analyzed decision, which it entered in Dickson v. Rucho, “said attorney Irving Joyner, chairman of the N.C. NAACP Redress Committee, and law professor at N.C. Central University School of Law. “The [2015] N.C. Supreme Court opinion was vacated by the [U.S. Supreme] Court, which mandates that it was wrongly decided. This is yet another victory for democracy and the litigation advocacy of the N.C. NAACP.”

Eric Ellison, chairman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, agreed.

“Same old story – the N.C. Republican-led legislature has drawn race-based district lines, which once again, have been found to be unconstitutional,” Ellison, who is also an attorney, said.

“The people of Forsyth County are confident that the current North Carolina Supreme Court will finally put this issue to rest and declare the currently drawn lines are unconstitutional and violate our 14th Amendment. Better yet, the North Carolina legislature should see the writing on the wall and immediately re-draw the lines in a non-racial, non-partisan fashion, and declare new elections this year so that the people of North Carolina can have immediate relief from illegal and unconstitutional representation. 

Most observers note that that is not likely to happen, especially with the 2018 midterm elections right around the corner.

“What I find most significant is that the legislature made the same legal mistake and used race the same way in drawing the state’s House and Senate districts,” Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said after last week’s U.S. High Court ruling striking down the 2011 congressional districts. “This opinion … must mean those districts are also unconstitutional.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule directly on the 2011 state House and Senate legislative districts shortly. Meanwhile, supporters of the Supreme Court decisions thus far feel that despite rumblings from the Republican leadership about trying again with both redistrictings, and voter ID, which were also struck down, the legal handwriting is on the wall.

“With [Tuesday’s] Supreme Court ruling, we can agree that gerrymandered district lines are a settled issue,” said Democratic chief Ellison.  “The faster that the North Carolina legislature can comply with our highest court’s decisions, the better it will be for all North Carolinians.”

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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