NC Republicans seek dismissal of research assistants over 'tainted' redraw process

North Carolina Republican lawmakers want a pair of research assistants helping a court with the redraw process to be immediately removed.

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Phil Strach, attorney for Republican lawmakers defending election maps, gives his closing argument in the case Jan. 6, 2022.
Bryan Anderson
, WRAL statehouse reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Republican lawmakers are seeking to remove half of the research assistants chosen to help a group of independent redistricting experts on a highly contentious case that could determine the state's political boundaries for the next 10 years.
The assistants working on behalf of the independent experts known as "special masters" could inform how a three-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court rules on congressional and legislative maps Republicans redrew last week.
If the court determines that the revised lines don't comply with a state Supreme Court order that struck down maps Republicans passed in November, the judges could go with proposals from voting rights groups whose lawsuit sparked the redraw. Judges could also go with maps from the special masters.

A lower court is now overseeing the redraw effort. Judges have until noon Wednesday to enact new maps.

In a Monday filing submitted to the three-judge panel in Wake County Superior Court, Republican attorney Phil Strach shared a thread of emails showing that research assistants Tyler Jarvis and Sam Wang communicated with plaintiffs' experts.

"The communications disclosed by the Harper Plaintiffs' counsel already show that the process is tainted and that the Special Masters' assistants intend to rely on Plaintiffs' experts for privately conveyed information as opposed to public filings that are available to the parties and the public," Strach wrote.

Wang did not immediately respond to a request for comment. When reached by phone on Monday, Jarvis said he hadn't yet seen the court filing and needs to review the complaint further and speak with the special masters before commenting on the matter.

When the court appointed three independent redistricting experts, it ordered that the special masters—former University of North Carolina System President Tom Ross and former state Supreme Court Justices Bob Orr and Bob Edmunds— refrain from communicating with parties and non-parties in the case about the subject matter of the redistricting case.

Strach said that standard should also prohibit research assistants from communicating with expert witnesses who have previously provided information on behalf of voting rights groups.

Jonathan Mattingly, who wrote a December report that voting rights groups cited as evidence for why the court should throw out maps the Republican-controlled legislature drew, received an email request for information from Wang, one of the two research assistants Republicans are now seeking to remove.

After providing a response with some information, Mattingly followed up to say he doesn't believe he should have further communications with Wang.

"I did not know you were working with the special master," Mattingly told Wang in a message sent at 9:59 a.m. Sunday. "I have been told that the court order forbids me and [Duke Mathematics Professor Greg Herschlag] from engaging with the special masters team. It makes sense as you are to be at arms-length [and] we are associated with the plaintiffs."

Jarvis communicated with Herschlag, according to documents included in the court filing.

Wang also emailed back and forth on Friday with Carnegie Mellon University mathematician Wesley Pegden. The mathematician in January testified in court on behalf of plaintiffs, saying, “The enacted map is an extreme outlier. Intent is the logical explanation.”

Attorneys for Republican lawmakers are requesting the court remove Jarvis and Wang as assistants, destroy any any work they've completed and prevent the special masters from considering any material the assistants produced.

Strach also wants the special masters and their assistants to immediately produce any additional communications they've had with outside sources about redistricting in North Carolina.

"Keeping Wang and Jarvis on as assistants to the Special Masters will cast a pall on the impartiality of these proceedings," he wrote.

Meanwhile, lawyers for Republican legislative leaders and lawyers for voting rights groups on Monday submitted court filings explaining why the lower court should choose their respective maps.

Common Cause North Carolina, a plaintiff in the case, called the legislature’s revised maps “plainly unconstitutional.”

Lawyers for the Republicans defended the updated maps and said the justices should “decline the plaintiffs’ invitation to judge a redistricting beauty contest.”


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