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High court backs NC voting maps as drawn

Posted December 19, 2014

Voting map

— The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday upheld the constitutionality of state voting maps drawn by the Republican-majority legislature in 2011.

Critics of the maps filed suit against them, arguing that they violated the constitutional rights of minority voters.

A coalition of groups, including the League of Women Voters, the state chapter of the NAACP and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, argued that Republican mapmakers had packed black voters into a small number of districts, thereby reducing their voting power in neighboring districts that were drawn to favor GOP candidates.

Authors of the maps argued that they were following the requirements of the federal 1965 Voting Rights Act, which required mapmakers in states subject to the federal law to create majority-minority districts where possible to ensure the viability of minority candidates.

Two separate lawsuits were combined and heard by a special three-judge panel in July 2013. That panel sided with the mapmakers.

The state Supreme Court heard the case on appeal in January but did not release its decision for 11 months.

In the court's 4-2 ruling, Associate Justice Robert Edmunds Jr. wrote for the majority, “We agree with the unanimous three-judge panel that the General Assembly’s enacted plans do not violate plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. We hold that the enacted House and Senate plans satisfy state and federal constitutional and statutory requirements."

Associate Justices Cheri Beasley and Robin Hudson dissented with most of the majority opinion, and Associate Justice Bob Hunter, who was not on the high court when the case was heard, did not take part.

The decision spurred renewed allegations of extremist politics from both sides in the case.

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, and Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, their respective chambers' redistricting chairmen, praised the ruling.

“Today’s decision confirms that our redistricting process and maps are what we have said all along: fair and legal," Lewis and Rucho said in a joint statement. “We are proud to have broken the cycle set by previous legislatures that repeatedly saw their maps tossed out by the courts as illegal. We hope today’s decision will finally put to rest the hyper-partisan rhetoric parroted by our opponents out of political spite.”

NAACP attorney Irving Joyner responded, "It is certainly regrettable that the North Carolina Supreme Court has sanctioned the use of race bias by the North Carolina General Assembly in an unlawful effort to promote and protect the political interests of extremist elements of the Republican Party."

"The citizens of North Carolina look to the court to be a fair and impartial arbiter of the rule of law. Unfortunately, the court has failed that important mission," added plaintiff and former state Rep. Margaret Dickson, D-Cumberland.

In a statement, Southern Coalition for Social Justice attorney Anita Earls called the decision "a disappointing development." The group will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"It is simply wrong for the legislature to carve up this state on the basis of race in these circumstances, " Earls said.

Voting-rights group Common Cause North Carolina said the ruling is further evidence of the need to reform the state's redistricting process, noting that, since 1980, North Carolina's voting maps have been challenged in court more than three dozen times.

"North Carolina's system of drawing voting maps continues to be highly dysfunctional and deeply partisan. Both political parties have used the power of redistricting to craft voting maps that favor their own side, depriving voters of a real choice on Election Day and leading to costly battles in the courts," Common Cause director Bob Phillips said in a statement. "Fortunately, our state can enact sensible, bipartisan reform that would make redistricting fair and impartial, protecting the right of voters to have a voice in who represents them."

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  • notexactly Dec 22, 2014

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    Um Obama has had plenty of room to accept the blame for his failures and lies. You just are not man enough to accept them! Like Obama, you only see what you want to and lay blame on others as is the case from Obama and his ilk of an administration. He is all to willing to accept praise for any good things that happen, but not man enough to step up and accept responsibility for his lies and failures. Funny you still cant see that. The wool must be over your eyes.

  • notexactly Dec 22, 2014

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    Um that is who drew the maps!! And was done by outside interests as well

  • Grand Union Dec 22, 2014

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    Not quite the same. The claims against Obama are usually that he is uniquely "wrong" in some way........like taking executive actions, golf games etc, that somehow he is the first President to do this and that in some way that makes it wrong, when as people keep pointing out that simply is not the case.
    However gerrymandering has never been OK and I don't recall anyone ever saying it was...........of course one side complains more when its the other side that does it, but thats simply human nature.
    However the current gerrymandering was done by the GOP and has resulted in a hugely disproportionate number of GOP members of Congress, for example, so is clearly wrong.
    Making them "fair" however is not that easy.....given the souths history of Jim Crow. Equal numbers by race and income in a district could well result in
    all white state govs again.

  • miseem Dec 21, 2014

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    Not quite. If someone wrecks your car, they can be specifically blamed for that. Blame for that cannot be shifted by saying that someone else has wrecked cars also. They did not wreck yours. So Bush can be held at least partially responsible for the financial meltdown, where Obama came along after the wreck. And by the same token, not removing the dead tree in your yard, leaning over your neighbor's house, cannot be excused by saying the previous owners did not do it, so I don't have any responsibility to do it either. So the fact that the Democrats did not address coal ash disposal or taxes on yachts in the past does not mean that the Republicans should not be addressing the issue now. It's still an ongoing problem that they are aware of.

  • Mary Zulch Dec 19, 2014
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    I think its time to stop all the political maneuvering for more votes in a district. maybe it is simple minded to say this...but I think it is time to draw districts with an equal number of people based on race and income. Period. That is the only way it can be fair. I am so sick of the bickering. By the way, I do not believe the maps are drawn that way. It needs to change. To be fair.

  • Joseph Shepard Dec 19, 2014
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    When the strongest defense one can muster is "the other guy did it too" then you know you have a bad plan" nc _interest
    Oh, you mean like the hue and cry that gets trotted ---the one that says "Bush did it"--when ever someone points out a failure on Obama's part??

  • 12345_here Dec 19, 2014

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    When the strongest defense one can muster is "the other guy did it too" then you know you have a bad plan

  • Kenny Dunn Dec 19, 2014
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    Agreed, but, for now, this is the system we have. Both parties pretty much do it the same way which is exactly the problem.

  • George Orwell Dec 19, 2014
    user avatar

    Districts be based on common population and average income. Also districts must be split on county lines or NC/US highways. Let a computer program do it based on those specific requiremnts from the census.

  • dubious Dec 19, 2014

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    This Democrat agrees! The gerrymandering on both sides has created districts so polarized that gridlock is all that remains. Moderates able to cross the aisle and reach compromise have been thrown out in North Carolina and across the country. By creating voting districts of ideological purity, we are actually destroying the foundation of a true representative democracy.

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