Federal court orders new NC legislative elections in 2017

Posted November 29, 2016

State lawmakers look over maps of new legislative voting districts during a Nov. 7, 2011, joint House and Senate committee meeting.

— North Carolina lawmakers must redraw their legislative districts by March 15 and hold new elections by the end of next year, a federal court ruled Tuesday.

That order follows up on a ruling from this summer that found lawmakers had unconstitutionally relied on race when they drew 28 state House and Senate districts.

Although lawmakers had told the court they should be given more time to redraw their districts and should not have to hold elections until 2018, a three-judge panel disagreed.

"This gives the State a total of seven months from the time the districts were held to be unconstitutional, which is longer than it took the 2011 legislature to redistrict the entire state," read the order.

North Carolina has 120 state House districts and 50 state Senate districts. Although only about one-sixth were found to be drawn unconstitutionally, the federal court order will likely lead to both maps being entirely redrawn because every change to one district affects adjoining districts.

Both Republicans and Democrats have regularly used the redistricting process to give their parties an advantage in both federal and state elections. In this case, Republicans parlayed a successful legislative campaign in 2010 into new legislative districts that gave them a stranglehold on state legislative maps.

"North Carolinians deserve fair representation in the state legislature, and that is impossible to achieve with racially gerrymandered districts. A special election in the affected districts in 2017 is the best way to protect the rights of all North Carolinians," said Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represented plaintiffs in the case.

Republicans will enjoy a 74-seat super-majority in the House and a 35-seat super-majority in the Senate for the session that opens in January. However, voters who just cast their ballots on Nov. 8 in legislative races – as well as statewide and local campaigns – will head again to the polls in the fall of 2017 to choose a new legislature.

The federal court order opens up the possibility that Democrats could erode the GOP's grip in new elections, but that's far from certain. Another federal court order required the General Assembly to redraw congressional maps earlier this year. The new maps yielded the same 10-3 Republican advantage that the GOP had enjoyed under the old maps.

"This politically-motivated decision, which would effectively undo the will of millions of North Carolinians just days after they cast their ballots, is a gross overreach that blatantly disregards the constitutional guarantee for voters to duly elect their legislators to biennial terms," Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, and Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, said in a joint statement. "We continue to believe the maps drawn by the General Assembly, pre-cleared by the Obama Justice Department and twice upheld by our state’s elected Supreme Court are constitutional, and we will move quickly to appeal."

The court's ruling is already on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, as is the case involving the congressional districts. The court will hear the case regarding the congressional maps next Monday.


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  • Ronnie Smith Nov 30, 2:45 p.m.
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    It's interesting how so many politicians promote "competition" and "free enterprise"---just not when it concerns their electability.

    Other observation is that perhaps for the first time in about a decade, state employees may get a raise/bonus two years in a row!

  • Steve Smith Nov 30, 1:19 p.m.
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    You are absolutely correct Ted. The judicial activist judges just shot their party in the foot though. in off year elections Dem's don't vote. If I were the GOP I would go after a few more Dem districts, so the only voice would hear from the left anymore is the clown jester Rev. Barber.

  • Teddy Fowler Nov 30, 12:51 p.m.
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    Gerrymandering is quite accepted as the normal spoils of victory... it is a time honored tradition throughout the US... But it should not be based on race... but can and should be based on party affiliation.... which I believe this is the way it was done....

  • Carol Smith Nov 30, 12:10 p.m.
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    View quoted thread

    how did u bring obama into this....lol

  • Carol Smith Nov 30, 12:08 p.m.
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    View quoted thread

    tedd, pretty funny that u are calling democrats sore losers when mccrory has been grasping at everything to delay election results.

  • Carol Smith Nov 30, 12:02 p.m.
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    there are many things that need to be cleaned up after the last four years.

  • Mare Procellis Nov 30, 11:58 a.m.
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    Rose and Jim are absolutely right. It is better to have software algorithms making districts than a cabal of power hungry politicians from any party. The so called judicial activism pales to the racially motivated mapping schemes deliberately made to empower the few over the many.
    Toss the anachronistic electoral college while you're at it.

  • Teddy Fowler Nov 30, 11:32 a.m.
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    What a waste of time and money.... I am quite sure that it will get overturned... democrats continue to show they are poor losers....

  • Raleigh Rose Nov 30, 7:20 a.m.
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    As all our mommas' told us growing up, two wrongs don't make a right. I don't really care what either party had done in the past, it is now time to stop drawing districts for one party's advantage. It wasn't right when the Dems did it and it's just as wrong now with the Reps doing it. The districts should be drawn so that the will of the people is in place. All the people. It needs to be fair, non-partisan and above reproach. And not just in NC. This needs to be done for all states and all districts in the country.

  • Robert Larson Nov 30, 6:56 a.m.
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    Nice to have some good news for a change.