The voters who convinced a three-judge panel that two of North Carolina’s congressional districts were racial gerrymanders contend in a court document filed late Monday that new maps drawn in February are no better. Attorneys for David Harris of Durham and Christine Bowser of Mecklenburg County asked the three-judge panel to reject the new maps drawn last month as “a blatant, unapologetic partisan gerrymander” that provides no legal remedy to the 2011 maps that were struck down Feb. 5. Many are watching the latter case as one that could test the limits of drawing districts for partisan advantage — something courts have allowed, to an extent. In their 40-page filing, the challengers contend the North Carolina districts go well beyond what previous rulings have allowed. They also argue that legislators drew maps that intentionally limit minority representation.
“Even if the remedial plan were not deemed an outright racial gerrymander like its predecessor, it is only because the General Assembly has stumbled out of the frying pan and into the fire,” the challengers said in the document, filed at 10:30 p.m. Monday. “Having misinterpreted the jurisprudence regarding the use of race in redistricting, the General Assembly also grossly misinterprets the law governing partisan gerrymandering.”
The challengers argue that for more than three decades the U.S. Supreme Court “has explicitly recognized that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional” and cited a recent Arizona case. In that case, the justices ruled 5-4 last summer that voters, concerned that partisan gerrymandering was creating unfair elections, were entitled to give an independent commission the role of drawing congressional districts.