Lawmakers and the challengers of maps proposed for electing North Carolina’s General Assembly members waited until the 11th hour to respond to districts suggested by an unaffiliated mapmaker. Lawmakers were critical of the process, saying the federal judges who tapped a Stanford University law professor to draw maps for them had done so prematurely and allowed him to consider race as he looked at election districts in Cumberland, Guilford, Hoke, Mecklenburg, Wake, Bladen, Sampson and Wayne counties. The three federal judges presiding over the case that will determine what districts North Carolina’s state Senate and House members come from in the 2018 elections have yet to rule on maps the lawmakers adopted in August. The judges — James Wynn of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Catherine Eagles and Thomas Schroeder, both of the U.S. Middle District of North Carolina — ordered new lines after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed their ruling last year that found 28 of the state legislative districts were longstanding unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.
Lawmakers adopted new maps in 2017 that they contend correct the gerrymanders, but challengers argued there still were problems with them.
With North Carolina elections set for next year, and the filing period for candidates opening in February, the judges have laid out a schedule that attempts to have court rulings on the new maps in place to meet the 2018 election schedule.
To help with the process, the judges tapped Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford University law professor, to show them how districts could be drawn in eight counties to alleviate their concerns that some of the districts might be designed to weaken the influence of black voters.