In papers filed with the state Supreme Court yesterday, lawmakers told the justices there was no reason to expedite proceedings in the North Carolina redistricting case, Dickson v. Rucho, sent back here last week by the U.S. Supreme Court — at least not within the time frame that challengers to the state’s redistricting plan want.
That order by the nation’s highest court came on the heels of its earlier decision in a similar case out of Alabama, in which the justices held that the Voting Rights Act required lawmakers to assess whether minorities had the ability to elect a preferred candidate of choice and to draw voting lines in order to facilitate that goal — not, as Alabama had done, to achieve specific numerical minority percentages.
North Carolina lawmakers operated under the same mistaken premise when designing the state’s 2011 plan, according to challengers.
Here’s Eddie Speas, one of the attorneys representing those challengers:
One of the things we think is important in the Alabama case is that the Alabama legislature engaged in a mechanical process when drawing districts that is inconsistent with the sensitive, strict scrutiny and narrow tailoring that the Supreme Court said has to happen in these redistricting plans.
And North Carolina lawmakers were guilty of this sin twice: First they adopted the rule that they would draw majority – minority districts in numbers proportional to the state’s black population. And then they drew each of those districts to have at least 50 percent total black voting age population.
Just after the Supreme Court order sending the case back, plan challengers asked the state’s high court to expedite the case — hoping to get a final resolution and any necessary redistricting changes in place in time for elections in 2016.
Lawmakers opposed that request yesterday, arguing that they needed time to fully brief the arguments they managed already to outline for the court and citing, ironically, scheduling conflicts they had with trial dates in the federal voter suppression cases.
(Several of the attorneys for the plan’s challengers are also involved in the federal cases.)
It’s been rare in recent history for the state Supreme Court to hear cases during the summer months.
However, with Chief Justice Mark Martin at the helm, the court has begun taking certain cases directly (bypassing the usual appeal process) and setting quick argument dates.
In October 2014, the court took up five cases for expedited review, including the challenge to the private school voucher program.
The court has also expedited argument in the appeal of the Governor’s lawsuit against the legislative leaders concerning commission appointments, setting that down for June 30.
To read the redistricting plan challengers’ request for expedited review, click here.
To read the lawmakers’ opposition, click here.