The expert who federal judges asked to redraw some North Carolina House and Senate district lines defended his final recommendations Friday, rejecting Republican arguments that he created boundaries with racial population quotas and helped Democrats. Stanford University law professor Nathaniel Persily released his proposal, which altered two dozen of the General Assembly’s 170 districts, mostly in the counties in or around Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte and Fayetteville. Some adjusted districts returned to the shapes that the legislature first drew in 2011. The judges will meet Jan. 5 in Greensboro before deciding whether to adopt the changes, about five weeks before candidate filing begins for next November’s elections. GOP lawmakers already have said it was premature for the judges to hire Persily as a special master, and House Speaker Tim Moore already has signaled map changes could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Persily produced a draft three weeks ago designed to address the concerns of a three-judge panel that redistricting performed by the Republican-controlled legislature in August didn’t shed previously unlawful racial bias from four districts. Other district changes, the judges wrote, appeared to violate a state constitution prohibition because they were redrawn when they didn’t have to be.
Reacting to the draft, a lawyer representing GOP leaders accused Persily of creating his own “racial sorting” by reducing – without legal justification – the black voting-age population in the four districts where the judges still worry racial gerrymandering exist. Lawmakers said they used no racial data while forming lawful maps in August.