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Lawmakers still object to special master; Covington plaintiffs offer incumbency tweaks to new plan

The legislative defendants in the racial gerrymandering case that involves state House and Senate districts opposes the federal court’s appointment of a special master and alleges abuse of discretion in a motion filed Friday.

“The process under which the special master is proceeding is irregular and inappropriate,” the motion states. “It defies precedent, ignores state sovereignty, and imposes race-based redistricting on the State against its will. Unless and until the Court issues a final ruling on the constitutionality of the Subject Districts, the special master should propose in his report to the Court the districts as drawn in 2017 by the North Carolina General Assembly.”

The court expressed concerns about the constitutionality of certain legislative districts in maps GOP lawmakers redrew to correct the constitutional violations in the first maps. It asked for the special master to weigh in, issue a report and potentially redraw any districts still deemed unconstitutional.

The special master, Stanford Law professor Nathaniel Persily, released his report last week, which redrew all the districts the court expressed concern over: Senate districts in Cumberland, Hoke and Guilford counties and House districts in Sampson, Wayne, Mecklenburg, Guilford and Wake counties.

The plaintiffs in North Carolina v. Covington filed its motion Friday stating they believe Persily’s maps remedy the racial gerrymanders and other constitutional flaws perpetuated in the redrawn maps.

They also propose some adjustments to “unpair” some incumbents, elected lawmakers who would be forced to run against each other in the 2018 election. Those incumbents the plaintiffs say could be unpaired are: Rep. Amos Quick (D-Guilford) and Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford), and Rep. Cynthia Ball (D-Wake) and Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake).

The plaintiffs note that they could not find a way to unpair Sen. Ben Clark (D- Cumberland, Hoke) and Sen. Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland); Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford) and (R-Guilford); and Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford) and Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford).

The legislative defendants in Covington did not address Persily’s pairing of incumbents in its motion opposing his tentative maps.

It argued that the case was moot and “if plaintiffs want to pursue additional claims, they must file a new lawsuit.” They also argue that the plaintiffs “no longer have a concrete stake in the outcome of the case because they face no realistic threat of injury.”

Other arguments legislative defendants make are that the court abuses its discretion by ordering a plan from Persily before making a final ruling on the redrawn districts; Persily redrew some districts based on an incorrect interpretation of the state Constitution; and Persily “improperly engaged in racial sorting to create districts with a mechanical target of black voting age population between 39 percent and 43.6 percent.”

The court has yet to weigh in on Persily’s proposed maps.

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