Leaders of the N.C. General Assembly’s redistricting committees are labeling as “outrageous” and “extraordinary” the appointment of a West Coast-based law professor to a role that could involve redrawing this state’s legislative election maps.
A three-judge federal panel overseeing the Covington v. North Carolina redistricting lawsuit named Stanford Law School professor Nathaniel Persily Thursday as a “special master” in the case.
“Similar to this same federal court’s order for a special election in North Carolina that the U.S. Supreme Court reversed, this unusual and vague order provides absolutely no legal or factual basis for objecting to the new maps, while also potentially delegating the legislature’s constitutional authority to draw districts to a lone professor in California with no accountability to North Carolinians,” said Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, and Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, in a joint statement.
Hise and Lewis chair their respective legislative chambers’ redistricting committees. “Being provided only two days to respond to such a strange order that could seize a fundamental right from the people of North Carolina and hand it to a single person on the other side of the country is an outrageous and extraordinary violation of the principles of federalism and our state’s sovereignty,” they said.
“Race was not used at all as a factor in the drawing of these districts,” the statement continues. “Further, these maps split fewer counties, towns and precincts than any map in recent North Carolina history. We are exploring all our legal options.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Roy Cooper’s press secretary, Ford Porter, offered a different take in his own prepared statement. “Legislative leaders had an opportunity to fix their unconstitutional legislative maps,” Porter said. “Instead they dragged their feet, held sham hearings, and passed new maps intended to rig elections in their favor. Today’s announcement that the court has appointed a Special Master who could redraw legislative districts is a positive step to ensuring fair elections in North Carolina.”
The three-judge panel has not yet ruled officially on new election maps the General Assembly approved this year. The order appointing Persily suggests that the judges might reject two Senate districts and seven House districts within those maps.