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Thirteen Wake County residents and two community organizations today appealed the dismissal of their lawsuit challenging the redistricting of the Wake County Board of Education districts as violative of the one-person, one-vote requirements of the United States and North Carolina Constitutions. 

The individuals and groups contend that the legislature overpopulated their urban districts while leaving adjacent, more rural districts underpopulated – thus diluting the urban vote.

In his ruling in March, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle found that the population disparities in the new districts did not reach levels necessary to support a challenge under one-person, one-vote provisions.

He also found that at its core the challenge to the new districts amounted to a claim of political gerrymandering which the courts will not consider:

All of the factors which plaintiffs say point to taint of arbitrariness or discrimination lead back to politics. Plaintiffs allege a favoritism of rural areas of the county over urban areas and they allege the targeting of democratic incumbents by the placement of three democratic incumbents into two republican leaning districts with republican incumbents. However, plaintiffs admit that the end result is political advantage. Plaintiffs do not argue that the population deviations are a result of discrimination on the basis of race or some other suspect classification. They claim only an impermissible political bias.

But the plaintiffs in the case disagree.

“The federal courts have made clear that favoring rural voters over urban voters, or favoring one political party over another are not legitimate justifications for deviations from the one-person, one-vote principle,” their attorney Anita Earls, Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said. “This case is not a partisan gerrymandering claim – it is a one-person, one-vote claim that must be taken seriously by all Wake County residents interested in fair elections.”

Read Judge Boyle’s order dismissing the complaint in Wright, et al. v. State of North Carolina et al. here.

 

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In a ruling handed down yesterday, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle dismissed a challenge to the 2013 redistricting of the Wake County School Board as violative of the one-person, one-vote requirements of the United States and North Carolina Constitutions.

A diverse group of plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in August contending that the legislature over-populated their newly drawn Wake County School Board districts, thus weakening their vote in contrast to voters in adjacent districts.

In his ruling, Boyle found that the population disparities in the new districts did not reach levels necessary to support a challenge under one-person, one-vote provisions.

Boyle also found that at its core the challenge to the new districts amounted to a claim of political gerrymandering which the courts will not consider:

All of the factors which plaintiffs say point to taint of arbitrariness or discrimination lead back to politics. Plaintiffs allege a favoritism of rural areas of the county over urban areas and they allege the targeting of democratic incumbents by the placement of three democratic incumbents into two republican leaning districts with republican incumbents. However, plaintiffs admit that the end result is political advantage. Plaintiffs do not argue that the population deviations are a result of discrimination on the basis of race or some other suspect classification. They claim only an impermissible political bias.

Read the full decision here.

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This morning’s Wilmington Star-News makes the case yet again for doing away with North Carolina’s absurdly gerrymandered political maps and the embarrassingly partisan process that gave rise to them.

“When they rode into office in the 2010 elections, Republicans pledged to govern differently than their Democratic counterparts. If by different they meant that a different party would be employing the same old political tactics to retain power and shut out the minority, then yes, it’s different.

But it does not serve the voters, and that is who the system is supposed to represent. The voters – remember them?

There’s a better way, but Honorables of both parties have resisted. A truly bipartisan coalition is pushing for an independent redistricting commission to help reduce the influence of politics on the redistricting process. There is no way to eliminate it entirely, but we can at least remove the process one step from politicians who have a vested career interest in drawing districts that allow them, in effect, to choose their own electorate.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

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Voter IDIf you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey’s lead story over on the main Policy Watch site – “Lawmakers: What we talked about when we talked about Voter ID.” As McCloskey reports, GOP lawmakers may be forced, sooner or later, to disclose what they were really up to when they passed the controversial “Monster” voting law in 2013:

“What were state GOP lawmakers’ intentions when they enacted House Bill 589, one of the most restrictive voting laws in the nation?

That’s the question the groups challenging the law want answered by the handful of legislators they served with subpoenas in December, asking those lawmakers to produce emails, letters, reports and other records used when pushing for voting law changes last session.

The lawmakers responded last week with an opening salvo in what might become an extended battle, claiming to be completely insulated from any obligation to produce those communications.

But if the court in Greensboro follows decisions from others across the country resolving voting cases, those lawmakers may have to start digging through their files and come up with some answers. Read More

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Though the  number of African-Americans elected to state legislatures in this area of the country since enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 has grown to over 300, they have effectively been shut out of the power structure.

That’s the conclusion Tom Edsall reaches in today’s New York Times — perhaps the most cogent explanation to date of just how Republicans have used redistricting laws, and in particular the concept of “majority minority” districts, to entrench themselves in state legislatures:

Republican legislators in the South have moved aggressively on two fronts to secure their power: by designing legislative and Congressional districts minimizing Democratic prospects and by moving ahead with legislation designed to suppress voting under the guise of combating voter fraud.

Mark Braden, a Republican lawyer who’s worked for years on redistricting efforts in the South, admitted as much in a recent forum at the Brookings Institution (as quoted at the electionlawblog):

 . . of course, redistricting based upon race has been vital to the creation of the Republican Party itself.  I mean, there’s no question about that throughout the ‘80s, ‘90s.  People that were working with me was the minority community in the South, and that’s what permitted the Republican party to become the majority party in those states at the local and legislative level.  

Edsall proceeds to discuss just how that happened — with what could be the playbook used for the 2011 redistricting plan upheld this week by a three-judge panel here :

Republicans in control of redistricting have two goals: the defeat of white Democrats, and the creation of safe districts for Republicans. They have achieved both of these goals by increasing the number of districts likely to elect an African-American. Black voters are gerrymandered out of districts represented by whites of both parties, making the Democratic incumbent weaker and the Republican incumbent stronger.