Politics & Government

Redistricting plaintiffs ask federal judges to act quickly

Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting members review historical voting maps lining the walls during their morning meeting at the N.C. Legislature on Tuesday, February 16, 2016.
Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting members review historical voting maps lining the walls during their morning meeting at the N.C. Legislature on Tuesday, February 16, 2016. clowenst@newsobserver.com

Critics of the congressional redistricting process that took place in 2011, and who successfully sued to overturn it on the basis of racial gerrymandering, on Monday filed a brief in federal court saying they don’t like the new map, either.

The plaintiffs asked the three-judge panel of the federal court that ordered the map redrawn to establish an expedited schedule to determine if the new map, approved by the General Assembly on Friday, is valid under constitutional considerations. They ask that the court make that determination by March 18.

“The map adopted by the General Assembly has been subject to considerable criticism, and plaintiffs share those deep concerns,” the brief they filed Monday says. “Their preliminary analysis of the new plan suggests that it is no more appropriate than the version struck down by the court. It is critical that the citizens of North Carolina vote in constitutional districts in the upcoming primary, now scheduled for June, and every election thereafter.”

Last week the legislature drew new maps that, in response to the court’s finding that race was an inappropriate predominant factor, did not take race into consideration at all. The result was a dramatically more compact 13 districts that maintained the current 10-3 split in favor of Republicans and made some districts more competitive than they were, which helps Democrats. But Democrats in the legislature objected, saying that drawing the map in a partisan way was actually a proxy for racial discrimination.

The current map retains the Democratic stronghold in the 1st and 12th congressional districts, which were the subject of the lawsuit, and brings most of the remaining districts close to the 20 percent average population of African-American statewide.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to stay the three-judge panel’s ruling from earlier this month. The full court could take up the state’s appeal.

The new map approved Friday also comes with a new schedule for the primary elections, moving the congressional primary to June 7 and keeping most other races in the scheduled March 15 election. There will be no runoff elections, so the top vote-getter in the primaries will be the winners.

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