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Federal court adopts special master’s legislative districts for 2018 elections

The North Carolina redistricting news just keeps on coming: Today, a federal court ordered that a special master’s legislative redistricting plan be adopted for the 2018 elections.

Stanford Law Professor Nathaniel Persily redrew nine of the 28 state House and Senate districts found to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders after the General Assembly’s maps didn’t remedy the violations, according to the court.

The three-judge panel’s decision to use Persily’s plan was unanimous and explained thoroughly in the 92-page order. It affects Senate districts in Cumberland, Hoke and Guilford counties and House districts in Bladen, Sampson, Wayne, Mecklenburg, Guilford and Wake counties. All other districts will remain as adopted by the legislature.

The candidate filing deadline is a little less than a month away and runs through the end of February. Persily’s plan pairs only two incumbents against each other in Senate District 27 in Guilford County — Republican Trudy Wade and Democrat Gladys Robinson.

The executive director of the state’s Republican party indicated on social media yesterday that lawmakers would appeal the federal court’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court if it was not in their favor. Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) and Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) confirmed Friday that they would appeal the case.

The decision comes less than a day after the Supreme Court blocked the same court’s order for lawmakers to redraw the 2016 congressional map because of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.

GOP legislative leaders — House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger — were silent on social media after the Friday decision and did not respond to a request for comment.

Lewis and Hise released a joint statement online.

“It is a shocking move for one of the same judges just reigned in by a bipartisan U.S. Supreme Court less than 24 hours ago to again attempt to create chaos and confusion in an election process set to begin in just three weeks,” they wrote.

It should be noted that Persily’s plan has been available to lawmakers and the public since Dec. 1.

The NCGOP criticized the court’s decision on Twitter.

“It is clear that the three Judge panel had no intention of allowing the #NCGA to fulfill its constitutional role in Redistricting,” the tweet from Dallas Woodhouse states. “It is now up to #SCOTUS to preserve the role of State Legislatures Under our Constitutional System.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest also weighed in on the social media site.

“If a power-hungry federal court can order that a California-based professor gets to usurp the North Carolina legislature’s constitutional authority to draw election maps, then there is no limit to federal judicial power,” he wrote. “This is nothing short of judicial tyranny. #ncpol #ncga.”

Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said she hopes lawmakers will respect “the reasoned opinion of this court that this kind of race discrimination has no place in our democracy.”

“We appreciate the input and guidance of the special master and the court to fully eliminate the unconstitutional use of race to segregate voters in North Carolina state legislative districts,” she said. “North Carolinians across this state fought for fair districts.”

Democracy North Carolina Executive Director Tomas Lopez applauded the federal court for implementing Persily’s plan.

“For too long, North Carolinians have had their voices quieted by maps that packed and cracked their political power,” he said. “We hope today’s ruling will lead legislative leaders to finally allow voters an opportunity to pick their lawmakers, not the other way around.”

The state’s Democratic party called the order a “key victory” and a major step toward fair representation.

“Republicans unconstitutionally rigged our elections for years, silencing North Carolina voters, in particular communities of color,” said Chairman Wayne Goodwin. “We applaud the court’s decision and look forward to competing in fairer districts across the state.”

You can read the court’s decision in full below.

SM order by NC Policy Watch on Scribd

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