North Carolina Supreme Court justices heard new arguments Monday on a four-year-old case challenging the maps that set out legislative and congressional districts for this decade. At issue is whether race played a key role in how the Republican-led legislature drew maps that challengers contend reflect a widely criticized redistricting system in which lawmakers choose their voters rather than voters choosing their lawmakers. In North Carolina, the NAACP and other challengers argue that the 2011 maps are racial gerrymanders drawn to weaken the influence of black voters. In Dickson v. Rucho, filed by former state Rep. Margaret Dickson and others against state Sen. Bob Rucho and others, challengers contend that black voters were packed into districts where they already had been electing candidates of their choice – largely Democratic candidates, effectively limiting minority voting power across the state.
A panel of three N.C. Superior Court judges ruled unanimously in July 2013 in favor of the North Carolina mapmakers, concluding that although race was considered in the design of the districts, it was done so to comply with the Voting Rights Act.
The N.C. Supreme Court heard arguments in January 2014 appealing the three-judge decision. In December, the state’s highest court upheld the ruling, opening the door for further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In April, the nation’s highest court sent the North Carolina redistricting case back to the N.C. Supreme Court with short instruction: Reconsider the case in light of the U.S. court’s March ruling in an Alabama redistricting case. Attorneys for the state lawmakers argued Monday that North Carolina’s redistricting differed from the Alabama map redrawing.