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NC court overturns legislative districts as partisan gerrymanders
Panel orders rewrite of lines by Sept. 18
Published Tuesday, September 3, 2019 6:22 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

A Wake County court found North Carolina's legislative districts are partisan gerrymanders that favor Republican candidates against their Democratic rivals.

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Nonpartisan legislative maps are coming to North Carolina.

A three-judge panel in Wake County sided Tuesday with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit to force the state to adopt party-neutral district lines by Sept. 18. The new lines would be used starting with the 2020 election cycle.

In a 357-page ruling, the Wake Superior Court struck down North Carolina’s legislative districts as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders that favored Republican candidates by packing urban and black voters into compact districts to the disadvantage of Democrats. The case is Common Cause v. Lewis.

"Today's momentous ruling from the Wake County Superior Court confirms what we already knew: North Carolina's grossly partisan legislative maps violate the mandates of our state constitution and should be redrawn immediately,” Thomas Lopez, executive director of Democracy North Carolina said in a statement. “We now look to the N.C. General Assembly and legislative defendants to abide by the court's lengthy ruling, remedy these unfair maps in "full public view" as the three-judge panel required, and finally give voters a fair shot at picking their politicians in 2020. We also urge the Court to not hesitate on the appointment of a referee in this case, as set forth in its opinion.”

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June that the challenge to the state’s congressional districts be sent back to federal district court and dismissed. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said partisan redistricting is not an issue to be decided for federal courts, leaving the task to state courts. Republican lawmakers defended the boundaries, drawn in 2011 and asserted courts had no role to play in deciding the legality of partisan gerrymanders.

“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” Roberts wrote in his opinion.
Republican leaders disagreed with the state court’s decision, but vowed to move on with redrawing districts.

 “This case is the next step in [former Attorney General] Eric Holder’s drive to use judges to create a Democratic majority,” state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said. “Thwarted at the U.S. Supreme Court, Holder has turned to state courts with Democratic majorities to, in his own words, ‘favorably position Democrats’ to game the redistricting process.

“We disagree with the court’s ruling as it contradicts the Constitution and binding legal precedent, but we intend to respect the court's decision and finally put this divisive battle behind us. Nearly a decade of relentless litigation has strained the legitimacy of this state’s institutions, and the relationship between its leaders, to the breaking point. It’s time to move on.

“To end this matter once and for all, we will follow the court’s instruction and move forward with adoption of a nonpartisan map.”

North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Wayne Godwin applauded the state court’s decision.

“From targeting people based on their race to dividing them based on their political beliefs, Republicans for a decade have rigged our state and silenced voters to cling desperately onto power,” he said. “North Carolina Democrats will never stop advocating for people’s right to make their voices heard at the ballot box, and we look forward to taking back control of the General Assembly using fair maps next November.”


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