Expert proposes legislative maps in NC redistricting case
Posted November 13, 2017 6:56 p.m. EST
Updated November 14, 2017 6:45 p.m. EST
Greensboro, N.C. — A map-making expert brought in by federal judges to rework North Carolina's House and Senate districts released his proposal Monday.
Attorneys on both sides of the underlying lawsuit requiring new maps have until Friday to recommend changes for a plan that's due Dec. 1 to the federal judges overseeing the redraw. That panel of three judges could accept that map, drawn by Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily, or stick with something closer to what the General Assembly's Republican majority submitted earlier this year.
The attorneys who initially sued to change the state's maps argue that the GOP's redraw didn't fully address the racial gerrymander found by the judges and affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Persily, known in court parlance as a "special master" in the case, didn't redraw House and Senate districts statewide or even redraw all of the districts initially found unconstitutional in this case. His focus, on instructions from the court, was on a handful of districts where the judges weren't convinced the GOP majority corrected the initial gerrymander. He was authorized to redraw other districts, including several in Wake County, because legislators redrew them this year despite not having to touch them to correct problems in unconstitutional districts.
That overreach, plaintiffs have argued, caused a problem under the state constitution, which forbids the legislature from redrawing General Assembly election maps more than once every 10 years.
The court ordered Persily to draw his maps without looking at past election results, making it difficult to immediately predict whether his changes would benefit Democrats hoping to make up ground against the Republican majority next year, when legislative elections are scheduled to be held using new maps.
A number of districts look significantly different under Persily's plan, though, including districts in Guilford County, where the court is concerned new maps perpetuate "the racial predominance of its predecessor district by over-concentrating the African American population in the area," Persily wrote in his order. In Cumberland County, he eliminated a finger that jutted out of Senate District 21 to keep the new home of state Sen. Ben Clark, D-Cumberland, in his district, a change Republican map makers approved at Clark's request.
Persily said in his order that he didn't take the locations of incumbents' homes into account in drawing new districts, and he called on attorneys in both sides of this case to recommend changes to keep incumbents in their old districts, if possible.