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Opinion

Federal judges give N.C. legislators route and deadline for new districts

Posted August 1

Dozens of people ran through Raleigh on Saturday for a fun run in an effort to end partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina. Photo by James DeAlto

There’s no telling what the North Carolina General Assembly’s leadership will do, or when they’ll do it when it comes to fixing the illegal and unconstitutional legislative districts scheme it has operated under for the last three election cycles.

However a panel of federal judges, who a year ago declared the districts “racial gerrymanders in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution” is specific about what it wants and when it wants a new legal plan.

The three: Appeals Court Judge James Wynn; District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder; and District Court Judge Catherine Eagles, and District Court have given the legislature until 5 p.m. Friday Sept. 1, to enact new House and Senate districting plans. Seven days after, the plan must be filed with the court along with:

  • Transcripts of all committee hearings and floor debates.
  • The “stat pack” for the enacted plans.
  • A description of the process the redistricting committees and legislature followed in coming up with the new district maps, including the identity of all participants involved in the process.
  • Any alternative district plans considered.
  • The criteria applied in drawing the new district maps, including the extent to which race was a factor in any district in which the black voting age population is greater than 50 percent.
  • As to any district with a black voting age population greater than 50 percent, the factual basis upon which the legislature concluded that the Voting Rights Act obligated it to draw the district at greater than 50 percent.

If the legislature wants an extension of the deadline – of not more than two weeks – it must: Publicly disclosed the criteria to be used in drawing the new districts; Show the legislature drew and publicly disclosed proposed districting plans applying those criteria and remedying the constitutional deficiencies; and made public a method and process for receiving comments and evidence from the public and other legislators.

The full text of the order is available here.

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