News: Quick Takes

Back to the drawing board for NCGA districts, court says

If ruling by three-judge federal panel stands, new legislative districts must be drawn for 2018 cycle

State lawmakers will once again have the task of redrawing districts — this time, their own — if a three-judge ruling released Thursday stands.

The opinion, written by U.S. 4th Circuit Judge James Wynn and joined by U.S. District Judges Thomas Schroeder and Catherine Eagles, found that race was the predominant factor in the 2011 drawing of maps for 28 N.C. Senate and House districts. The ruling came out of North Carolina’s U.S. Middle District Court.

“Moreover, defendants have not shown that their use of race to draw any of these districts was narrowly tailored to further a compelling state interest,” the opinion reads. “Because defendants have failed to demonstrate that their predominant use of race was reasonably necessary to further a compelling state interest, the 28 challenged districts in North Carolina’s 2011 state House and Senate redistricting plans constitute racial gerrymanders in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. We therefore must order that new maps be drawn.”

The ruling orders the General Assembly to draw new districts during its next legislative session. Lawmakers are not scheduled to return to Raleigh until 2017. This year’s election will go on as scheduled under the 2011 maps. Ordering new maps or postponing the 2016 legislative elections “would cause significant and undue disruption to North Carolina’s election process and create considerable confusion, inconvenience, and uncertainty among voters, candidates, and election officials,” the ruling says.

While the ruling involves 28 legislative districts, when new maps are drawn, other districts will be affected, so most if not all of the 50 Senate and 120 House districts will change for the 2018 election cycle.