News: Quick Takes

Special master to draw new districts by Dec. 1

A three-judge panel has ordered a Stanford law professor to redraw nine N.C. legislative districts by Dec. 1, signaling “serious concerns” about the legislature’s effort to correct maps that had been thrown out because of racial gerrymandering.

The latest order in Covington v. North Carolina rejects legislative leaders’ objections to Nathaniel Persily, the law professor named as a “special master” in the case. The judges will consider Persily’s maps before issuing another ruling in the case.

The order clarifies that judges believe that the legislature’s proposals for Senate Districts 21 (Hoke and Cumberland counties) and 28 (Guilford) and House Districts 21 (Wayne and Sampson) and 57 (Guilford) might “fail to remedy” the court’s 2016 ruling that earlier versions of the districts should be tossed because of racial gerrymandering. The court singles out only those four districts among 28 identified in the 2016 court order.

Judges offer a more complicated story about the other five House districts subject to Persily’s review. First, the panel writes that Districts 36, 37, 40, and 41 in Wake County and District 105 in Mecklenburg County do not face concerns about racial gerrymandering. The judges contend that the General Assembly did not need to redraw those districts to address the 2016 court order. They write that the N.C. Constitution forbade lawmakers from redrawing those districts without a court order.

Restoring these districts to their earlier versions would end up leading to new lines for Districts 33 and 38 in Wake County and Districts 99, 102, and 107 in Mecklenburg, which were ruled as racially gerrymandered districts under earlier election maps. Persily is ordered to draw new lines for this latter set of five districts.

The latest court order notes the judges’ interest in finalizing plans before the 2018 legislative candidate filing period. Candidate filing is scheduled to open on Feb. 12.