The three-judge panel in North Carolina’s ongoing partisan gerrymandering case has appointed Stanford Law professor Nathaniel Persily as a referee to help review and possibly redraw remedial maps submitted by the General Assembly.
Persily was the plaintiffs’ choice in Common Cause v. Lewis. The Republican legislative defendants had suggested the court jointly appoint Art Pope — a well-known conservative financier and former Republican lawmaker — and Gerry Cohen — a retired General Assembly attorney and longtime state government insider.
“The court is satisfied that Professor Persily has the requisite qualifications and experience to serve as referee in this matter,” the judges wrote in an order released today. “Professor Persily has beneficial experience, having served as the special master in the Covington litigation, as well as extensive and impressive practical and academic experience in the field. [He] has also consulted about election matters on a bipartisan basis, has no apparent conflicts of interest, and has time available to complete the work required by his appointment as referee in this matter.”
The North Carolina v. Covington case involved racial gerrymandering — lawmakers were found to have unconstitutionally drawn state House and Senate districts in 2011 to weaken Black voting power.
The judges in Common Cause plan to release a separate order at a later date providing for Persily’s instructions as referee in the matter.
The order released today gives lawmakers an extra day to turn in remedial maps — they are due by 5 p.m. Sept. 19. It also outlines how they should format the maps to turn into the court.
Lawmakers have until 5 p.m. Sept. 23 to turn in transcripts, amendments, justifications for the maps and more. Any parties to the case have until 5 p.m. Sept. 27 to object to the remedial maps. Any parties after that would then have until 5 p.m. Oct. 4 to respond to the objection and provide an alternative remedial map.
The Senate and House redistricting committees passed its final remedial maps today, but will jointly hear public comment at noon Monday before floor votes. Members of the public who wish to speak about the maps can do so in room 643 of the Legislative Office Building. There will be a video live stream of the hearing.
The Senate redistricting committee approved its maps almost unanimously, while the House approved its maps along party lines. There were some disagreements there about last minute changes to some of the districts.
Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California Irvine School of Law and author of Election Law Blog, speculated that the court would ultimately employ Persily to redraw the legislature’s maps — given the process he’s been watching — and that both Democrats and Republicans would be disappointed in the final outcome.
What kind of maps will Persily draw? I expect based on his track record that he will draw fair maps that will disappoint both sides. Almost by definition, the maps will provide less Republican advantage than the old maps. While Republicans will likely accuse Persily of bias (and did when he drew less Republican, but still Republican-leaning maps to cure partisan gerrymandering in congressional maps under the Pennsylvania state constitution), Democrats were not happy with the maps Persily drew in Georgia in the Larios case, and Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was not happy with maps Persily drew in a New York case. Both Democrats and Republicans have called for Persily to draw fair maps in the past.
Read the full court order from today below.