Lawmakers’ new proposed legislative maps do not remedy the constitutional violations in the old maps, according to attorneys for the plaintiffs in the racial gerrymandering lawsuit dictating the redraw.
In a letter sent Tuesday to opposing counsel and the joint House and Senate redistricting committees, North Carolina v. Covington plaintiff attorneys offer alternative maps that remedy the constitutional violations and also comply with the state and federal constitution in all other regards.
“Additionally, based on our initial analysis, your proposed plans do not offer an adequate remedy and do not represent appropriate remedies free from other state and federal constitutional flaws,” the letter states. “We would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of those flaws for you.”
The new maps violate both the U.S. and North Carolina Constitutions, according to the letter. The new maps remain racially gerrymandered and are also grossly unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders, which violates the Equal Protection Clause, it states.
“First, it is plain that in several areas of both the House and Senate proposed maps, the constitutional violations are not cured and, indeed, the racially gerrymandering continues. For example, proposed Senate District 21 retains the same odd shape as invalidated Senate District 21, with the edges of the protrusion into Cumberland County only slightly smoothed out. Dr. Hofeller obviously does not need access to racial data to know that if he draws the district in approximately the same way the racially gerrymandered district was drawn, it would achieve the same effect—the illegal separation of black from white voters in Cumberland County and the packing of black voters into the district, thus limiting their political impact.
In the House, we observe the same phenomenon in Guilford County, where House Districts 57, 58 and 60 are centered right over their locations in the 2011 map—Dr. Hofeller again does not need access to racial data to know that he if he puts the new district in exactly the same location as it was in their unconstitutional form, they will have the same effect. Likewise, while House District 21 is now in only two counties, as opposed to three, it is still very non- compact and appears to us to be drawn in a way to capture black populations in those two counties.
We anticipate there may be other examples of this problem that we may determine with some additional time to review the proposed maps. What is clear is that these districts do not fully correct the constitutional violations identified by the three-judge panel, whose findings were unanimously affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. We request that these errors be remedied immediately and in full. Absent such action, we believe the court will have to draw a plan itself that fully remedies the violations, as it will not be able to approve these districts as an appropriate remedy.”
In highlighting partisan gerrymandering, the attorneys cite an analyses released by the Campaign Legal Center that shows large efficiency gaps and a big Republican edge.
The letter also explains other violations, including the redrawing of districts that do not touch districts that were ruled unconstitutional (in Wake and Mecklenburg counties) and the unnecessary division of counties in the House map.
The letter states that plaintiffs’ counsel developed alternative maps that are ready immediately. You can read the full letter here. You can see copies of the alternative maps here (House) and here (Senate). Data files for the alternative maps will be uploaded here.
Anita Earls, Executive Director for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and Edwin Speas of Poyner Spruill are among the counsel who represents Covington plaintiffs.
“The maps put forth by our clients achieve several key objectives that are not found in the extremely partisan maps offered by legislative leaders,” said Earls, who is lead attorney in the case.
She added “It is entirely possible to draw remedial districts that fully comply with the North Carolina state constitution and do not create unconstitutional partisan or racial gerrymanders. We’ve offered one such alternative to legislators.”