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New redistricting lawsuit filed over four Wake County legislative districts

A new redistricting lawsuit has been filed in state court, this time challenging the constitutionality of four state House districts in Wake County.

The same districts were challenged in the racial gerrymandering case, North Carolina v. Covington, based on a state constitution prohibition on mid-decade redistricting — lawmakers were accused of redrawing districts they didn’t have to during a court-ordered remedial map-making process.

A special master redrew those districts and the U.S. District Court ordered they be used in this year’s elections, but the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the districts, likely because they involved issues of state law, not federal law.

GOP lawmakers at the time argued that if the plaintiffs wanted to litigate issues of state law, they should file a lawsuit in state court. Plaintiffs in a similar racial gerrymandering case pending at the state level then tried to resolve the issue, but a three-judge panel agreed a week ago that a new lawsuit was necessary.

The new lawsuit was filed on behalf of North Carolina NAACP, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, Democracy North Carolina, North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute and four individual plaintiff-voters from Wake County.

“Voters in North Carolina have a state constitutional right to have their legislative districts changed only once a decade,” said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney at SCSJ and lead attorney in the case. “This is an important protection in state law — one that many states don’t have — and its clear purpose is to prevent the ills of gerrymandering and political gamesmanship present here.”

The lawsuit asks that the four state House Districts in Wake County be returned to their 2011 boundaries in time for 2018 state legislative elections. The primary election is scheduled for May 8, and legislative candidates have only until the end of the month to file elections paperwork.

“North Carolinians have not been able to vote in constitutional state legislative districts this decade,” said Janet Hoy, co-President of the League of Women Voters of NC. “Lawmakers have dodged their obligations to enact fair districts time and time again. That will not deter us from continuing to push fair districts for voters that comply with the state and federal constitutions.”

There also was a House district in Mecklenburg County challenged on the state constitution violation grounds in the Covington case, but it is not included in this lawsuit.

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