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Individuals and groups challenging North Carolina’s 2011 redistricting plan wasted little time today getting their case back before the state Supreme Court, filing papers a short while ago asking for an expedited hearing and decision in time for elections in 2016.

That request followed on the heels of this morning’s U.S. Supreme Court order vacating the state court’s December 2014 decision upholding the plan and calling for a new hearing in light of the high court’s late March decision in a similar Alabama case.

In today’s filing, the plan’s challengers pointed out five ways in which the state Supreme Court decision erred, given the analysis called for by the justices in the Alabama case:

First, the United States Supreme Court’s Alabama decision establishes that the trial court here correctly concluded that race was the dominant factor used to draw the challenged Senate, House, and Congressional Districts. Indeed, under the Supreme Court’s decision, there is no reasonable basis to conclude that race was not the predominant factor used by the North Carolina General Assembly in drawing the challenged districts.

Second, the decision establishes that North Carolina’s Section 5 justification for its race-based actions is invalid, unfounded, and unsupported by the text of Section 5.

Third, the decision establishes that even if North Carolina had a compelling Section 5 justification for its race-based actions, it failed to narrowly tailor the challenged districts to conform to any such justification.

Fourth, the decision and the remand in these cases strongly suggest that North Carolina’s Section 2 justification for its race-based actions is also invalid and unfounded and unsupported by the text of Section 2.

Fifth, the decision and the remand strongly suggest that even if North Carolina had a compelling Section 2 justification for its race-based actions, it failed to narrowly tailor the challenged districts to conform to any such justification.

They are asking the court to set a schedule that envisions an initial determination whether the case has to go back to the three-judge trial panel for additional findings and then further briefing if necessary at the Supreme Court to be completed by the end of June, with argument to follow as soon as possible thereafter.

To that end, it’s worth noting that the state’s highest court has already scheduled an unusual late June argument day to hear an expedited appeal of the Governor’s lawsuit against the legislative leaders concerning commission appointments.

Click here to read the challenger’s motion in full.

News

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the North Carolina redistricting case back to the state Supreme Court this morning for further review in light of the high court’s recent decision in a similar Alabama case.

The North Carolina groups and individuals who initially sued lawmakers in state court — contending that the state’s 2011 plan constituted an unlawful racial gerrymander — filed papers in January asking the justices to review the state Supreme Court’s 2014 decision upholding the plan.

Then in late March, the nation’s highest court decided the Alabama case — applying a different analysis than that used by our state justices and sending that state’s plan back to the trial court for further review. (For more on the relationship between the Alabama and the North Carolina cases read here.)

The Court ruled that race predominated in an Alabama redistricting plan which moved black voters into majority-minority districts in order to prevent the percentage of minority voters from declining, and that such race-based redistricting must be strictly scrutinized.

Five days later, the court likewise sent a case raising similar issues regarding Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, Cantor v. Personhuballah, back down for further review.

The challengers of the North Carolina plan — relying in part upon the analysis in the Alabama decision — argued in papers recently filed with the Supreme Court that our state maps should also be strictly scrutinized and rejected as race-based gerrymanders.

With today’s order, the state Supreme Court will now have to review the 2011 redistricting plan using those parameters.

Here’s the order:

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News

SCOTUS redistricting mapsOn tomorrow’s calendar of petitions for review by the U.S. Supreme Court is Dickson v. Rucho, the challenge to the state’s 2010 redistricting plan.

The groups and individuals who initially sued lawmakers in state court — contending that the plan constituted an unlawful racial gerrymander — filed papers in January asking the justices to review the state Supreme Court’s 2014 decision upholding the plan.

Since then, the nation’s highest court decided a similar case out of Alabama — applying a different analysis than that used by our state justices and sending that state’s plan back to the trial court for further review. (For more on the relationship between the Alabama and the North Carolina cases read here.)

The Court ruled that race predominated in an Alabama redistricting plan which moved black voters into majority-minority districts in order to prevent the percentage of minority voters from declining, and that such race-based redistricting must be strictly scrutinized.

Five days later, the court likewise sent a case raising similar issues regarding Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, Cantor v. Personhuballah, back down for further review.

The challengers of the North Carolina plan — relying in part upon the analysis in the Alabama decision — contend that our state maps should also be strictly scrutinized and rejected as race-based gerrymanders.

Citing the Alabama opinion, they argue:

Certiorari must be granted in this case to end the use of irregularly shaped race-based election districts in North Carolina because “[r]acial gerrymandering strikes at the heart of our democratic process, undermining the electorate’s confidence in its government as representative of a cohesive body politic in which all citizens are equal before the law.”

They also point out that state lawmakers’ use of “mechanical racial targets” led to the drawing of districts that were “even more bizarrely shaped” than those examined by the justices in the Alabama case — as illustrated in the image above. (The enacted district as opposed to alternatives is in the bottom right corner.)

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SCOTUS Sketch

(Supreme Court sketch: Art Lien)

The U.S. Supreme Court gets a second shot at the Affordable Care Act this morning, with arguments set to start any minute in King v. Burwell.

If you were hoping to catch the arguments via live stream, well, you can’t. That’s because the nation’s highest court still does not allow cameras in the courtroom.

A number of open government organizations are taking advantage of the public interest in this case to make their case for the need of live coverage there, via the public announcement below.

In the meantime, some media outlets will be having reporters shuttling in and out of the courtroom with reports on the questioning and we’ll be posting some of those here as we see them.

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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asking about standing of challengers to sue, per Wall Street Journal live blog:

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Here’s the mid-argument update from SCOTUSblog:

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Justices move from standing to questions about reading the statute literally — as challengers ask — and the problems with that.  More from SCOTUSblog:

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From Election Law Blog’s Rick Hasen:

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Here’s what Justice Anthony Kennedy was asking, per SCOTUSblog update:

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Questioning going overtime:

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Plenty of questioning on the merits means likely no ruling based upon lack of standing, says SCOTUSblog:

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Justice Kennedy pushed government lawyer Michael Carvin, asking if “pressuring” states into creating their own exchanges is problematic. His response, per WSJ:

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Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor jump in, per WSJ:

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Questioning of the Solicitor General, arguing in favor of the reading that subsidies were availalbe under either exchange, wasn’t much easier. Per SCOTUSblog:

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Arguments have ended.  Here’s a few post-game predictions from legal experts and court watchers:

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News

Supreme courtThe U.S. Supreme Court is hearing argument today in a redistricting dispute out of Arizona that could bear directly on North Carolina voters.

In the case, aptly captioned Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commissionthe state legislature sued an independent redistricting commission approved by voters in 2000 to draw state and congressional voting lines.

The lawmakers contend that the delegation of that responsibility from them to the commission violates the Election Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which states that “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for . . . Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.”

SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe has more on the legal arguments in the case here, but of more import to North Carolina voters is the impact the court’s decision may have on developing efforts to reform the redistricting process here.

Two bills are now pending in the General Assembly that would change the overtly partisan nature of drawing voting lines in North Carolina.

House Bill 92, sponsored by Rep. “Skip” Stam and others, calls for a more bipartisan approach to map-drawing but keeps ultimate approval authority with lawmakers.

House Bill 49 on the other hand — sponsored by Rep. Charles Jeter and others —  delegates the map-drawing to an independent commission, which then presents three plans from which lawmakers can choose. If they don’t agree on a plan within a set period of time, the commission itself picks the redistricting plan that becomes state law.

The latter bill, which would require a constitutional amendment, is more like the Arizona law before the nation’s highest court, except that it still rests ultimate approval with the lawmakers — absent their failure to act.

But even that degree of delegation may be at risk, depending on how the Supreme Court rules.

As the Brennan Center for Justice points out here:

If the Supreme Court were to conclude that the Elections Clause prohibits citizen efforts to take the power to redistrict away from elected politicians, the decision could have far-reaching ramifications. A growing number of states in recent years, including California, have given independent commissions the power to set the boundaries of their congressional districts. In fact, almost half of the states now use redistricting commissions in some form, including as a backup if the legislature is unable to pass a redistricting plan. Efforts to adopt similar sorts of reforms are currently underway in Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin – with Arizona and California frequently serving as models for proposed reforms.