Judges get new state redistricting maps; plaintiffs offer alternatives

Published 9:36 pm Friday, February 18, 2022

By GARY D. ROBERTSON

Associated Press

RALEIGH — The North Carolina General Assembly on Friday turned over to judges the redistricting maps lawmakers approved to replace boundaries struck down by the state Supreme Court earlier this month.

Republican legislators had until 5 p.m. to provide the latest set of plans for state House and Senate seats and for North Carolina’s U.S. House delegation. A three-judge trial court panel also wanted other details and data that show how lawmakers complied with a state Supreme Court decision striking down the previous maps because justices said they were illegal partisan gerrymanders.

Voters and advocacy groups that successfully sued by overturning the maps the legislature had approved in November also were invited by the Supreme Court to submit their own alternate maps by late Friday, and did so.

The judges, with the assistance of three experts they appointed this week, will review the enacted districts. They’ve been ordered to adopt or approve plans that comply with the state constitution by midday Wednesday. That could require making further adjustments. For now, candidate filing for the May 17 primary is set to resume Thursday morning.

Republicans who control the General Assembly and drew the new maps have said they meet the statistical thresholds suggested by the Supreme Court to provide partisan fairness in an otherwise closely divided state.

“This court should enter an order approving these plans, and allow the electoral process to move forward without any further delay,” Phil Strach, an attorney for GOP legislative leaders who were sued, wrote in a legal memo Friday.

Each of the three maps appear to give Republicans a slight advantage, according to an analysis of districts using statewide election results from 2016 and 2020, but would provide pathways for Democrats to win majorities in favorable political environments. In particular, the map of North Carolina’s expected 14 U.S. House seats appears to create four highly competitive districts.

A group of plaintiffs led by the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters offered remedial maps for the U.S. House and state Senate and House seats. The group included those maps in its lawsuit and presented them at last month’s trial challenging the legislature’s plans.

Other voters, who filed their own lawsuit and are backed by a national Democratic redistricting group, provided alternate maps for the U.S. House and state Senate only, since the final state House plan was approved with overwhelming bipartisan support, their lawyer wrote.

In contrast, “the newly enacted congressional and Senate maps do not come close to meeting the partisan fairness and other key metrics identified by the Supreme Court,” attorney Narendra Ghosh wrote.

Lawyers representing Common Cause, another lawsuit plaintiff, asked the judges to redraw one House district and one Senate district in eastern North Carolina to address what they call lines that make it harder for Black voters to elect candidates of their choice.

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