What a mess in North Carolina.” That’s a direct quote from Richard L. Hasen, a law professor and voting-rights expert. But you certainly don’t have to be an expert to know that, less than a month before the March 15 election, the state’s congressional-elections process is, at best, veiled in uncertainty. Here’s what we know: After the 2010 Census, the N.C. General Assembly redrew the state’s congressional districts, passing the new plan in 2011. In 2013, several state residents filed a lawsuit against Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. Board of Elections alleging that congressional Districts 1 and 12 had been drawn in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. On Feb. 5, a three-judge panel from U.S. District Court sided with the plaintiffs. The ruling said that in drawing the districts, there was “strong evidence that race was the only non-negotiable criterion and that traditional redistricting principles were subordinated to race.”
The court ordered the legislature to redraw the map, which they have done. The new map does not factor in race at all, which some legal experts say could be a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A section of the act requires the creation of minority opportunity districts under certain circumstances. In addition to adopting a new map, the General Assembly also moved the congressional primary to June. 7.
Now the U.S. District Court panel must sign off on the plan. It is not known how long that might take. The state petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a stay of the lower court’s decision, arguing that the decision was so close to the March 15 election that it would “trigger electoral turmoil, and irreparable injury to the State of North Carolina and its voters.”