A federal court ruled two months ago Republican legislators weren’t legally justified in turning two North Carolina congressional boundaries into majority-black districts and ordered new lines. Starting Monday, another panel of three federal judges convenes a weeklong trial deciding whether close to 30 of the 170 state House and Senate districts approved almost five years ago by the General Assembly also are illegal racial gerrymanders and must be redrawn. Voters in the challenged districts who sued make largely the same arguments that won out in February’s separate congressional litigation. They say legislators created too many minority-majority districts when evidence shows black voters have been able to elect their preferred candidates in districts when their voting-age population was well below 50 percent. The congressional district ruling forced lawmakers to quickly redraw the map and delay the March congressional primary until June. It’s unclear whether, if the legislative plaintiffs are successful, new boundaries would be ordered for this year.
The current General Assembly boundaries used in 2012 and 2014 helped Republicans pad their seat advantages over Democrats. Redrawn districts could threaten their veto-proof majorities and ability to unilaterally pass legislation.
In a pretrial brief, voting rights lawyer Anita Earls makes several references to the February ruling in explaining why race was the predominant factor in the 2011 round of redistricting.
But the legislative maps failed to remedy racially polarized voting or improve black voter participation in elections, she wrote. Rather, the challenged districts “methodically packed black voters in even higher concentrations than ever before, using a perverted and completely unsupported interpretation of the (U.S.) Voting Rights Act.”
Full Article: Legislative map trial begins after Congress lines nixed | The Charlotte Observer.