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After plaintiff objection, redrawn legislative maps now in hands of federal court

The plaintiffs in North Carolina’s recent racial gerrymandering case already made clear to lawmakers’ that their new legislative maps were flawed but filed an official objection [1] Friday with the federal court.

The filing states that while the court found 28 state House and Senate districts to be unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered, lawmakers altered 116 districts and the plaintiffs in North Carolina v. Covington object to 12 of them.

They allege federal and state constitutional violations in the 12 newly drawn districts and filed remedial alternative maps.

“What we filed today is no different from what we told the General Assembly before they passed these new districts,” said Anita Earls, Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) and lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “They failed to cure the illegal use of race in several areas of the state. It is now the Court’s responsibility to fix the problem. Further, the legislature violated the North Carolina Constitution by redrawing districts in Wake and Mecklenburg counties that should not have been touched.”

The plaintiffs also contend that racial gerrymanders were not cured in four districts: Senate districts 21 (Hoke County) and 28 (Guilford County) and House districts 21 (Wayne and Sampson counties) and 57 (Johnston County).

They aren’t challenging, however, all districts with high Black voting age populations.

“Plaintiffs’ objection to these four districts is not based solely on the racial composition of the districts but rather includes circumstantial evidence including the shapes of the districts and the populations contained within them,” states a media release from SCSJ. “While the implications of this data may be contested, the facts themselves, the compactness scores, the district lines and the census data, are not contested.”

In their objection, the plaintiffs also state that five districts in Wake and Mecklenburg counties were unnecessarily redrawn, which exceeds the court-ordered authority given to the General Assembly.

The plaintiffs asked the court to adopt part of the Senate and House districts and part of their alternative maps to remedy the violations pointed out in the objection. In the alternative, the plaintiffs request that the court sustain their objections and order a special master to redraw those districts.

“We are asking the court to step up and do what the legislature has continually failed to do — give North Carolinians fair districts that do not discriminate or violate the state constitution,” Earls said.

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Several voting rights organizations filed amicus briefs in the case in support of the plaintiffs. Democracy NC and League of Women Voters of North Carolina filed its brief together [2]. They urge the court to take full control of “any further map drawing, protect the public’s interests, and bestow no more generosity upon Defendants.”

In the brief, the organizations take issue with the public hearing process and allege that lawmakers did not use any input from citizens with regard to the new maps.

“Ironically, Defendants blamed the Court’s scheduling for their inability to select better venues and disclose their maps well ahead of the hearings. Instead of pursuing what the Court called a ‘commendable goal of obtaining and considering public input,’ Defendants’ actions demonstrated a fundamental disrespect, if not contempt, for the
public’s involvement and, indeed, for this Court’s decision to grant them extra time. Amici Democracy NC and LWV NC believe that it’s important for this Court to receive a detailed description of these actions and the deep disappointment the public feels about the public hearing process.”

The NC NAACP also filed in amicus brief with the court to “highlight the constitutional inadequacy in the General Assembly’s treatment of race in constructing a remedial redistricting plan for North Carolina Senate and House seats.”

“While the General Assembly’s process was riddled with numerous deficiencies that render the maps an inadequate remedy for the egregious constitutional violation at issue in this case, the critical error in the treatment of race is sufficient, by itself, to justify this Court’s rejection of the General Assembly’s submitted maps,” it states. “To cure the constitutional violation created by their 2011 racially-gerrymandered districts, the General Assembly should have examined race data in concert with other traditional redistricting principles to ensure that the purposeful unconstitutional racial gerrymander that has deprived black voters of their voting rights for six years is fully remedied and to draw fair districts that comport with federal and state constitutions and laws.”

You can read the full brief here [3].