North Carolina redistribution maps may stand, court rules, but appeals awaited

(WGHP) – The maps the General Assembly has drawn for the legislative and legislative constituencies of North Carolina are not partisan gerrymanders and can be used for the next election.

That’s the ruling announced Tuesday in a 258-page ruling by a three-judge panel from the Wake County Circuit Court that heard testimony last week in three lawsuits filed to ask for the cards to be redesigned. .

“After carefully and fully conducting our analysis, it is clear that the plaintiffs’ claims must fail,” the ruling states. “Judges, like many of the citizens they serve, don’t always like the results they get. Notwithstanding this fact, judges have a solemn duty to uphold the law. “

Lawyers for the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters and a group of former elected officialsthe Harper v. Lewis group of voters and Common Cause had argued that the maps were designed to protect and even amplify Republican dominance in Congress and the General Assembly.

Lawmakers’ lawyers countered that partisan gerrymandering is not specifically prohibited by North Carolina’s constitution and that lawmakers did not use any election data to draw district boundaries.

This is only a first skirmish in this battle, however, as the challengers are expected to appeal immediately to the state appeals court or directly to the state supreme court, which in December suspended the filing of candidatures and postponed the primary elections from March to May to allow these lawsuits to be tried and appealed.

“To declare unconstitutional an act of the branch of government which represents the people is a task which should not be taken lightly. There is a strong presumption that General Assembly promulgations are constitutional, ”the ruling said.

The judges set a schedule to resume filing for all races, but issued a separate schedule suspension to allow the case to be appealed.

The maps in question were adopted by the General Assembly on November 5. They added a 14th congressional district and split the current 13 in a way that experts testifying for the plaintiffs said would ensure at least 10-4 GOP dominance and created districts for that state legislature. which, according to some, suggests a possible return to Republican supermajority.

Guilford County – and surrounding areas – is at the center of this problem as the new congressional map replaces the 6e Congressional District, which included the County of Guilford and Winston-Salem, with four separate districts that cover hundreds of kilometers in all four directions.

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro), who now serves in the 6e District, and representing Virginia Foxx (R-Banner Elk), who represents the 5e District, are “double superimposed” in the new 11e District which extends along the border of Virginia to Ashe County, then to Caldwell County. Small portions of Watauga County are included, apparently to allow Foxx’s house to be in that district.

Foxx announced in November that she would be running in the 11th, but Manning has made no announcement on her plans as she claims the new congressional maps were created unfairly and is waiting for the matter to go to court.

Winston-Salem, also a member of the 6e District, would be included with all of Forsyth County in the 12e District, where Representative Ted Budd (R-Advance) and Representative Patrick McHenry (R-Denver) are considered the incumbents.

Budd, however, is running for the Senate seat vacated by retired Republican Richard Burr.

According to the new maps, Guilford County is also part of the 10e District, with the High Point region joining some of Davidson and Iredell counties and all of Davie, Rowan and Cabarrus counties. Representative Richard Hudson (R-Concord) is the incumbent.

The joker is the newly drawn 7e Congressional District, which includes the eastern counties of Guilford and Davidson and all of the counties of Alamance, Randolph, Chatham and Lee and a small portion of Wake County.

There is no incumbent in this district, but several candidates have announced their intention to run (some documents were filed before the process was terminated).

Key to this image is former Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican currently running for the Senate. Former President Donald Trump and others have called on him to quit the Senate race against Budd and former Governor Pat McCrory and run for the seat. He, too, said he waited for the picture to become clearer before making up his mind.

Arguments over district lines have raged for years and are part of federal and state lawsuits. Courts have ordered districts to be redesigned for the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections, in some cases even taking control of the process and hiring consultants to create the maps.

This is what plaintiffs hoped would happen in last week’s trial, that politicians would be taken out of line art and replaced with math and computers.

They argue that this is a fairer approach and that the General Assembly has not been forthright about its approach.

Part of that argument was reinforced by the Speaker’s disclosure of House Rules Destin Hall (R-Lenoir), the leader of his chamber redistribution process, who testified about the map-drawing strategy sessions conducted in a private room and how the maps designed there were then “created” in the streaming public sessions that lawmakers touted as “the most transparent in history.”

These “concept maps,” which Hall described as having been brought into the public room by his attorney, Dylan Reel, are “currently lost and no longer exist.”

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