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Plaintiffs and N.C. NAACP challenge GOP redistricting maps

Plaintiffs and N.C. NAACP challenge GOP redistricting maps
September 21
05:00 2017

As the three-judge federal panel reviews the newly redrawn N.C. redistricting maps it ordered from the N.C. legislature, opponents aren’t waiting to weigh-in on what the court’s next move should be.

Anita Earls of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and Edwin Speas, Jr. of Poyner & Spruill LLP, attorneys for plaintiffs who originally sued the state ultimately proving that 28 of 170 legislative districts in the 2011 N.C. redistricting map were illegal racial gerrymanders, filed a legal brief in federal court last Friday, alleging that at least 12 of the redrawn state House and Senate districts resubmitted to the court are now either racial gerrymanders, or are in violation of the state’s Constitution.

At the top of the list for racial gerrymandering is Senate District 28, which state Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford), an African-American, represents. The three other districts are Senate District 21 in Cumberland and Hoke counties; House District 21 in Wayne and Sampson counties and House District 57 represented by Rep. Pricey Harrison, again in Guilford County.

“Race predominated in the drawing of these districts lines, and Defendants (legislature) offer no compelling governmental interest to justify those districts,” the plaintiffs’ Sept. 15th brief to the court contended.

Two weeks earlier, Sen. Robinson of District 28 said, “The courts specifically looked at my District 28 and commented on its composition.  Republicans are intent on protecting Sen. Trudy Wade [R-Guilford] for whom they created a district by packing 28.  I expect that the only remedy will be in the courts.”

Rep. Harrison, a white Democrat representing House District 57, was equally as resolute that the continued racial gerrymandering would not stand.

“I believe the maps will be challenged and may have a hard time passing muster with the federal court. I do not know if that will affect the 2018 elections, but we will be spending more taxpayer money defending the indefensible.”

If the federal judicial panel agrees with the plaintiffs, Rep. Harrison and Sen. Robinson may now get their wish. In addition, several other legislative districts were found by plaintiffs to be unconstitutionally redrawn, in that “… the plain language of the state constitution prohibits mid-decade redistricting.” The Constitution also prohibited violation of its Whole County Provision, and plaintiffs contend that several House districts are drawn crossing county boundaries.

Plaintiffs recommended to the court that the redrawn maps by GOP lawmakers be thrown out, and replaced with proposed legislative maps the plaintiffs have submitted for the 2018 mid-term elections.

If the court disagrees, plaintiffs ask that a court-appointed special master be employed to “… redraw the districts in these limited county groupings.”

“We are asking the court to step up and do what the legislature has continually failed to do — give North Carolinians fair districts that do not discriminate or violate the state constitution,” attorney Earls said in a statement.

On that same day, the N.C. NAACP filed an amicus brief to the court supporting the plaintiffs’ position that the legislative redraws should be thrown out because they  “… remain tainted with race discrimination …,” and a special master be secured to do the job properly. In its brief, the civil rights organization faults the Republican decision not to use race as part of its criteria in redrawing legislative districts as a primary reason why they’re still unconstitutional, as earlier determined by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The Legislative Defendants have thus returned to the court following a ‘remedial’ process that never directly addressed the race discrimination that infected its prior maps, indicating once again that, as this Court has noted, it ‘does not appreciate the need to move promptly to cure the unconstitutional racial gerrymanders in the 2011 districting plans,’ ” the N.C. NAACP brief stated.

The General Assembly cannot sufficiently demonstrate to this Court that the enacted plans cure their egregious purposeful racial gerrymander through the bare assertion that, by prohibiting any consideration of race data, they have created color-blind remedial maps with no explanation of how these maps actually cure the violations. The NC NAACP thus respectfully requests that the Court reject the General Assembly’s proposed maps and appoint an independent special master to draw fair remedial maps that properly consider race and fully remedy the violation in accordance with federal and state law.”

Republican legislative leaders have a week to respond to both the plaintiffs and N.C. NAACP briefs.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, N.C. Congressman G. K. Butterfield and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-LA) sent a letter to heads of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, urging them to “reject” President Donald Trump’s nomination of North Carolina  Republican attorney Thomas Farr to a lifetime appointment as federal judge for the Eastern District “… because of his dismal record in opposition to voting rights and workers’ rights.”

No word at press time as to when Farr’s hearing is to begin.

 

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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