Courts & the Law, News

New motions filed seek to set deadlines for state to redraw racially gerrymandered legislative maps

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the newest redistricting case have filed a series of motions with the appellate court to get the redistricting ball moving while waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to formalize its orders. Their timeline sets a June 22 deadline for redistricting.

The Supreme Court earlier this week affirmed that 28 state House and Senate districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. It vacated the lower court’s remedy for special elections and remanded it back to the three-judge panel for further proceedings with instruction about considerations that should be made with such an order.

Gov. Roy Cooper tried to force the legislature’s hand into redrawing the unconstitutional maps right away by calling a special session today but lawmakers declared it unconstitutional and then went home for the weekend.

Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) later tweeted “we will redraw previously legal lines when Court orders,” and “The law has changed since 2011. The #ncga will change with law.”

The motions filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina seek to expedite the process for which the state has to pass a remedial plan to correct the unconstitutional gerrymanders.

The first motion seeks to set the following deadlines for the General Assembly to act:

a. The General Assembly of the State of North Carolina is given the opportunity to draw new House and Senate district plans for North Carolina House Districts 5, 7, 12, 21, 24, 29, 31, 32, 33, 38, 42, 43, 48, 57, 58, 60, 99, 102, and 107; and Senate Districts 4, 5, 14, 20, 21, 28, 32, 38, and 40, through and until 5 p.m. on June 22, 2017.

b. The defendants shall file the new maps with the Court within seven days of passage.

c. Within seven days of passage, the defendants also shall file:

i. transcripts of all committee hearings and floor debates;

ii. the “stat pack” for the enacted plans;

iii. a description of the process the General Assembly followed in enacting the new plans, including the identity of all participants involved in the process;

iv. the criteria the General Assembly applied in drawing the districts in the new plans, including the extent to which race was a factor in drawing any district in which the black voting-age population (BVAP) is greater than 50%; and

v. as to any district intentionally drawn with a BVAP greater than 50%, the factual basis upon which the General Assembly concluded that the Voting Rights Act obligated it to draw the district at greater than 50% BVAP.

d. The plaintiffs may file any objections within seven days of the filing of the redistricting plan with the Court. The defendants may respond seven days thereafter.

e. If the State fails to redistrict by June 22, 2017, the plaintiffs may file a proposed redistricting plan no later than June 26, 2017.

The second motion asks for the court to have an expedited evidentiary hearing and the third asks for the court to expedite consideration of the first two motions.

The first motion states that when attorneys for the plaintiffs conferred with attorneys for the defendants on the motion there was a mixed response: “Legislative Defendants indicated that they oppose this Motion. The State Board of Elections Defendant takes no position on this Motion, and the State of North Carolina Defendant agrees that the public interest calls for a prompt decision on the possibility of a special election in 2017.”

The same attorneys that are asking for the appellate court to expedite its process already asked for the Supreme Court to quickly issue mandates formalizing its opinion to transfer jurisdiction. The state oppose the request, according to the document, and Chief Justice John Roberts has asked for a response by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The issue of the state redrawing its unconstitutional maps is separate from the issue of whether there will be special elections this year, but one dictates the other and the clock is ticking on the possibility of elections this year.

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