Raleigh, N.C. — A three-judge panel on Monday ordered a trial on lawsuits challenging how the Republican-controlled legislature redrew North Carolina's congressional and legislative district maps in 2011.
Some Democratic lawmakers, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Democracy North Carolina and other groups have maintained that the new maps reduce the political power of minority voters by lumping them into as few districts as possible and split too many counties and too many precincts among districts.
Republican mapmakers have said that they simply followed federal law by clustering black voters into certain districts to ensure that they could elect candidates of their choice. The U.S. Department of Justice approved the maps, which the GOP said was proof that the maps were legitimate.
The three Superior Court judges hearing the lawsuits say there are enough factual disputes over two issues to have a single judge hear evidence and rule on them:
- Were some districts drawn to minority majority standards without a reasonable history of racial voting problems?
- Why were 4th and 12 Congressional districts, Senate districts 31 and 32 and House districts 51 and 54 drawn as they were?
Democratic congressmen David Price and Mel Watt hold the two congressional districts in question. The two Senate districts cover Forsyth and Yadkin counties, and the two House districts cover all of Chatham and Lee counties and part of Harnett County.
The location of the June 4-5 trial and the judge to handle it haven't been determined.
The three-judge panel will continue to consider all other issues in the redistricting lawsuits and may hold more hearings.