Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

North Carolina redistricting litigation: What the heck is going on?

Less than 24 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked some of a special master’s districts from being implemented, plaintiffs in a similar racial gerrymandering case have asked a state court to get involved.

And a little more than an hour after the new challenge was announced, Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) called a press conference to complain about all the redistricting litigation.

“Here we go again,” he said. “These liberal dark money groups financed and controlled by allies of the Democratic party are determined to use and abuse the court system to achieve unprecedented chaos. In short, it appears that they will sue until North Carolina is blue despite what the people, despite what the voters want.”

It does seem like there’s been a lot of redistricting litigation going on, but it hasn’t just been Democrats taking advantage of their legal options — the GOP has also filed their fair share of documents, including a number of emergency pleas to higher courts when they don’t get the ruling they want.

There’s a saying about glass houses, but instead of getting into that, check out this breakdown of the most recent redistricting case:

  • When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that 28 House and Senate districts were racially gerrymandered, lawmakers redrew the districts.
  • The plaintiffs — voters harmed by the unconstitutional gerrymandering — challenged 12 of those redrawn districts alleging state and federal constitutional violations.
  • A federal three-judge panel appointed a special master to evaluate and potentially redraw those districts. Stanford Law Professor Nathaniel Persily agreed they were unconstitutional and redrew the districts.
  • After briefings and a hearing on Persily’s maps, the panel ordered they be enacted over lawmakers’ redrawn plans for this year’s elections.
  • Lawmakers immediately filed an emergency request for the U.S. Supreme Court to block the ruling and announced they planned to appeal. One of the points they made was that the federal court should not have ruled on state constitutional issues (a ban on mid-decade redistricting), as was the case with House districts in Wake and Mecklenburg counties. “Any state-law challenge to HD36, HD37, HD40, HD41, and HD105 thus must be filed in state court, where state judges familiar with the state constitution can address the unsettled question of how N.C. Const. art. II, §5(4) applies when a federal court invalidates a duly enacted map.”
  • The U.S. Supreme Court issues a split order: some of the special master’s maps can be used in this year’s elections and some can’t, at least temporarily pending an appeal. The districts that can’t be used are the ones that involve questions of state law.
  • The plaintiffs in a racial gerrymandering case that challenged legislative maps at the state level filed a court document asking state judges to order new districts into effect in Wake and Mecklenburg counties, where they accused lawmakers of violating the mid-decade redistricting ban.
  • Lewis calls a press conference to criticize plaintiffs for filing more litigation.

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