North Carolina’s boundaries for General Assembly and congressional seats were drawn four years ago by Republican legislators and have been used in the past two election cycles, helping bolster GOP electoral gains. Yet the initial litigation that called the role race played in forming the districts discriminatory and illegal remains unresolved. Combined lawsuits filed by election and civil rights groups and Democratic voters are back at the state Supreme Court. Justices will hear arguments Monday whether they should change their majority ruling from eight months ago that upheld the maps now that there’s a new U.S. Supreme Court decision. The nation’s highest court told North Carolina state judges in April to reconsider the case through the lens of its March decision. The U.S. justices found Alabama legislators relied too much on “mechanical” numerical percentages while drawing legislative districts in which blacks comprised a majority of the population.
Those who sued over North Carolina’s maps in 2011 believe the ruling in the Alabama matter is spot on with the boundaries drawn by the General Assembly. They argued in court briefs that it confirms two dozen legislative districts, along with the majority-black 1st and 12th Congressional Districts, should be struck down and maps redrawn quickly by the legislature for the 2016 elections.
State attorneys and legislative leaders contend the Alabama case is altogether different, and the current maps should remain intact. “They’re fair and legal,” said Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, the Senate’s chief mapmaker in 2011. “We don’t suspect there will be any changes because the decision of the Alabama case is like apples and (oranges) to the case that we presented.”
Lawyers challenging the maps argue North Carolina GOP leaders, as in Alabama, went beyond what the U.S. Voting Rights Act and case law demand by shoehorning black voters into irregularly-shaped districts and eroding their ability to elect their preferred candidates.