Republican legislative defendants in North Carolina’s racial gerrymandering case hope to call their own California elections expert and a member of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners to testify on their behalf. Raleigh lawyer Phillip Strach has asked a panel of federal judges to approve Glendale, Calif., political scientist Douglas Johnson and Guilford commissioner Hank Henning as witnesses in a hearing scheduled next month on the latest round of voting-district maps. Strach wants testimony from Johnson, Republican commissioner Henning and Republican commissioner Michael Boose of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners to cast doubt on recent recommendations from the lawsuit’s “special master,” California law professor Nathaniel Persily of Stanford University.
“This testimony is necessary because it is directly related to the issues in the case and will refute plaintiff’s evidence and the special master’s report,” Strach said in a written petition filed recently in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.
A panel of three federal judges overseeing the case tapped Persily about two months ago to suggest ways of fixing the remaining racial issues with four election districts involved in the lawsuit — two of them in Guilford County.
When he was appointed, GOP leaders in the General Assembly criticized the move as “potentially delegating the legislature’s constitutional authority to draw districts to a lone professor in California with no accountability to North Carolinians.”