News: Quick Takes

Federal court picks special master’s legislative maps over legislature’s

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, the chairman of the House redistricting committee, discusses electoral maps during a July 2017 organizational meeting of a joint legislative redistricting committee he co-chairs. (Photo by Dan Way).
Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, the chairman of the House redistricting committee, discusses electoral maps during a July 2017 organizational meeting of a joint legislative redistricting committee he co-chairs. (Photo by Dan Way).

On Friday afternoon, a three-judge federal court panel adopted the recommendations of the expert it selected and folded nine legislative districts into the state’s General Assembly maps.

In the Covington v. N.C. case, the court picked Nathaniel Persily, a professor at the Stanford law school and a redistricting expert, to suggest district lines that would fix maps the legislature drew last year. The court earlier had thrown out maps drawn in 2016, ruling 28 legislative districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The panel said the replacement maps presented last year still had problems, and asked Persily and the General Assembly to suggest alternatives that would satisfy the law.

The court adopted Persily’s recommended changes for nine legislative districts, leaving the other 19 as redrawn last year.

In a statement, Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, and Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, chairmen of each legislative chamber’s redistricting committee, slammed the court’s decision.

It is a shocking move for one of the same judges just reined in by a bipartisan U.S. Supreme Court less than 24 hours ago to again attempt to create chaos and confusion in an election process set to begin in just three weeks.

The legislature has repeatedly asked this court to provide guidance, citing the urgency of the upcoming candidate filing period. Contrary to our pleas and fresh off yesterday’s stinging rebuke from the high court, this panel has unleashed another bout of uncertainty that could harm North Carolina voters who are entitled to free and fair elections.

We will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lewis and Hise were referring to Judge James Wynn of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, an Obama appointee who also serves on the panel in charge of North Carolina’s congressional redistricting lawsuits.

Republicans now hold 75 of 120 House seats and 35 of the 50 Senate seats.