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@NCCapitol

Court upholds redrawn NC voting maps

Posted July 8, 2013

Voting map

— A three-judge panel on Monday upheld legislative and congressional districts drawn by the Republican-dominated General Assembly in 2011, ruling unanimously that the maps were constitutional.

Democrats, the state NAACP and good-government groups had sued to invalidate the maps, saying they were improperly drawn based on racial considerations. The opponents also argued lawmakers too finely split the state, dividing so many local voting precincts that it would create confusion.

But the three Superior Court judges found that those challenging the maps had not showed "a violation of any cognizable equal protection rights of any North Carolina citizens, or groups thereof, will result." Voting map NC voting maps

The plaintiffs in the case, including a former state lawmaker and the state NAACP, have 30 days to decide whether to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court. 

"With the unanimous decision, I can't imagine they have any grounds at all to appeal," said Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, one of the lead mapmakers for the legislature. "When we drew fair and legal district maps, we followed the letter of the law. That's been the intent since Day One."

The opinion addresses two different lawsuits that were combined into one case. One suit was brought by the NAACP and other groups. The other case involved 45 plaintiffs, lead by former state Sen. Margaret Dickson of Fayetteville, a contingent that served as a proxy for the state Democratic Party. 

"I was hoping on a better outcome," said Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, the minority leader in the state Senate. He said Monday morning that he had not read the decision, but based on the how the case has proceeded, he anticipated a more favorable ruling.

That said, the three-judge panel's ruling does not end the case, and Nesbitt speculated, "it is probably going to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court."

“We appreciate the consideration that the trial court gave this case," reads a statement released by the plaintiffs led by Dickson. "We understand the precedent constraints that they labored under. We believe that there are numerous issues that will need to be resolved by higher courts. Once we have fully reviewed today’s ruling, we will have more to say in the coming days.”

The NAACP was less circumspect in its response, calling the voting maps "harsh, oppressive and racially divisive."

"We contend that these maps were drawn unfairly and unnecessarily, and that the law is on our side," the group said in a statement. "The N.C. NAACP is disappointed in the court's inability to accurately interpret applicable law. This ruling is a sanction on political re-segregation, which we plan to challenge."

Maps already have cleared one hurdle

The General Assembly redraws the maps for North Carolina's 13 congressional districts, 50 state Senate districts and 120 state House districts every 10 years following the U.S. Census. The last census was conducted in 2010, and lawmakers redrew the districts in 2011. 

Ideally, districts are redrawn only to ensure that each elected lawmaker represents roughly the same number of people. However, state legislators have long drawn districts to favor whichever party happens to be in control of the General Assembly. Democrats were at the helm of redistricting efforts for the better part of a century.

But in 2010, Republicans controlled both the House and Senate and, therefore, redistricting legislation. Former Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat who left office in early 2013, had no say in how the districts were drawn because state law does not give the governor veto authority over redistricting plans.

Republicans leveraged those favorable districts to win super-majorities of both the state House and Senate, as well as capture nine of the state's U.S. House seats.

After the maps cleared the General Assembly, they were reviewed and "pre-cleared" by the U.S. Justice Department under a procedure laid out by the federal Voting Rights Act. The U.S. Justice Department, whose leadership was appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama, found the maps did not hurt the ability of minorities to elect candidates of their choice.

In fact, Republican lawmakers frequently cited their need to comply with voting rights law as a reason to create legislative districts that contained high concentrations of minority voters. Plaintiffs challenging the districts said lawmakers were trying to illegally "pack" minority voters into a few districts, diluting their overall influence.

But the three-judge panel found that the maps did not "pack" districts as defined by prior appellate court rulings. Lawmakers, the judges ruled, had a "limited degree of leeway" in applying past judicial decisions.

The maps drawn in 2011 were used for the 2012 election, even as they were being challenged in state court following federal pre-clearance. State law creates a special judicial process for redistricting cases. Now that the panel – made up of Judges Paul Ridgeway of Wake County, Joseph Crosswhite of Iredell County and Alma Hinton of Halifax County – has made its decision, plaintiffs can appeal directly to the state Supreme Court.

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  • seriouslyrevoked Jul 9, 2013

    99percenters Somewhere around 74% of the registered 79% of black registered voters vote, a little less for whites. So where is the problem? Most free willed people know that there is big dollars in the victim hood game, from trial Lawyers, to all the hundreds of thousands if not millions, of bureaucrats distributing social welfare by taxing those who work and give historic amounts of charitable aid to the poor. All the while allowing those so called social justice groups a tax free haven to promote the bias that fuels the whole cycle. And as there is never enough fairness and there seems to be endless amounts of American compassion this cycle seems to be permanent.

  • mep Jul 9, 2013

    "Bottom line: The redrawing of the district lines were Constitutional and lawful.... I for one am enjoying them." mep

    Where did you get your law degree?

    You are enjoying your taxes going up, your water table getting polluted?
    goldenosprey

    The court did rule.....

    Where did you get your time machine?
    You have no proof that my taxes will go up, nor my water will become polluted or that either is the result of the GOP.
    More... "the sky is falling" nonsense.

  • Crumps Br0ther Jul 9, 2013

    if you think that Racism has long since passed, your living under a rock, in your world are the Unicorns Blue or Red?
    99percenters

    Its still around because people wont let die. A waitress forgets to bring you a drink, RACISM! The drive-thru forgets your burger, RACISM! Any little slight nowadays can be construed as racist. You have generations of people being raised in a culture of victimhood. And I won't even get into the racism I saw in Germany or the Balkans when I was stationed there. Youre the only one in la la land thinking it's going to go away. You perpetuate it yourself by being so proud that you aren't racist that point it out every chance you get like some crusader.

  • Crumps Br0ther Jul 9, 2013

    You are enjoying your taxes going up,

    goldenosprey

    What kind of liberal are you? You guys LOVE tax increases! I guess only when its your guys doing it though, right?

  • goldenosprey Jul 9, 2013

    "Bottom line: The redrawing of the district lines were Constitutional and lawful.... I for one am enjoying them." mep

    Where did you get your law degree?

    You are enjoying your taxes going up, your water table getting polluted?

  • Ken D. Jul 9, 2013

    "When we drew fair and legal district maps, we followed the letter of the law. That's been the intent since Day One."

    That's a cleverly worded statement. I agree the GOP tried to follow the letter of the law. It's the first part of his statement that is intentionally misleading. Nobody - not even the most ardent GOP supporter - can argue that the GOP drew fair district maps.

    Without question, The GOP's goal was to draw unfair districts that favored their party. Democrats also, when they controlled the legislature, tried to do the same thing. That is the nature of politics - trying to gain unfair advantage. And the GOP has always been better at that than Dems.

  • GOPtakersSociety Jul 9, 2013

    Just get over it - the problem was over 150 years ago! Race is a non-event today - look who is in the White House! And who is the chief law enforcement office in the US? No more racial preference! Race is irrelevant in every possible way.

    Click to view my profile Tax Man

    Denial is not a river in Egypt!

    if you think that Racism has long since passed, your living under a rock, in your world are the Unicorns Blue or Red?

  • mep Jul 9, 2013

    Not even slightly, no.... the vote %s versus seats won was significantly less skewed by gerrymandering.

    Not that there was NONE, but it wasn't "likely to happen less than 1% of the time" bad... it was nearer a 60/40 thing.

    How is 60/40 "fair"... if you admit the lines were in fact gerrymandered in the first place? Take a look at Brad Millers old district lines for crying out loud!

    Your "facts" are almost as skewed as your politics.

    Bottom line: The redrawing of the district lines were Constitutional and lawful.... I for one am enjoying them.

  • miseem Jul 9, 2013

    Booyah is right!! Quit whinning and find the common ground, AND don't forget to get those VOTER IDs for Next year.

    And vote the GOP out.

  • junkmail5 Jul 8, 2013

    (North Carolinas on the other hand LEAST matched the idea 'fair' computer models, falling outside the 99th percentile of probability based on voter percentages in the state) junkmail5

    I question computer models all the time- Mep

    You question any kind of fact all the time.

    it's like you're allergic to them.

    And how was it BEFORE the redistricting.... the same.
    mep

    Not even slightly, no.... the vote %s versus seats won was significantly less skewed by gerrymandering.

    Not that there was NONE, but it wasn't "likely to happen less than 1% of the time" bad... it was nearer a 60/40 thing.

    For example in 2008 under old maps the house saw 5 republicans elected (out of 13 seats) with a little under 50% of the total vote.... so 5 to 8... 6 to 7 would've been "ideal" under the vote split.

    In 2012 republicans STILL got under 50% of the total vote but won -nine- seats. 9 to 4 with less than half the vote

    If you can look at that and think it's "fair" I want some of what you're smoking

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