North Carolina Supreme Court OKs accelerating redistricting arguments

By GARY D. ROBERTSON, Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — In another partisan remapping decision, the North Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to expedite arguments on new challenges to the state’s legislative seat and congressional district boundaries. ‘State.

In a 4-3 decision with registered Democrats in the majority, the justices granted a Common Cause request to expedite the redistricting proceedings before them. The group is fighting the State House and Senate maps approved by the General Assembly in February. Oral arguments will take place in early or mid-October, Associate Justice Robin Hudson wrote Thursday.

Hudson wrote specifically that the ordinance did not respond to a recent request by Republican lawmakers to end its appeal of the congressional district boundaries, which a state trial court drew and adopted for use this year. only.

But she said the acceleration of all redistricting appeals was based on “the great public interest in the subject matter of this case, the importance of the issues to the constitutional jurisprudence of this state and the need to reach a final resolution. on the merits as soon as possible”. possible possibility. »

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It is too late for any decision after these pleadings to change district lines for this year’s elections, which are already taking place under the disputed maps. Any decision could further clarify how partisan bias is avoided in mapping and force lawmakers to redraw new maps of the General Assembly that would be used for the rest of this decade. A new congressional map for the 2024 elections will already be needed.

Associate Justice Tamara Barringer, opposing Thursday’s order for the court’s three Republican justices, wrote that it didn’t make sense to speed up the process. Any map redraws required for the 2024 elections would not need to be in place until the start of nominations in December 2023, she said.

“Common Cause does not explain how an expedited decision by this court will make a significant difference to the ability of the legislature to meet a deadline that is more than sixteen months away,” Barringer wrote.

With Hudson stepping down from court at the end of the year and Associate Democratic Justice Sam Ervin IV being reelected, it’s possible a GOP majority would have heard the case had arguments waited until early 2023.

The disputed lines replaced other sets of boundaries that the GOP-controlled House and Senate drew last fall based on demographic changes from the 2020 census. The Supreme Court, in an identical 4-3 decision, invalidated this first batch of cards. The court called the rows illegal partisan gerrymanders who failed to treat voters who support Democrats fairly and told lawmakers to try again.

A panel of three trial judges approved replacement maps for the 170 legislative districts drawn by lawmakers, but revamped the second congressional map. The state Supreme Court declined to delay their use with this year’s election.

The calls have not ended as Common Cause and the other plaintiffs in the redistricting lawsuits said the Senate map, or the boundaries of the two chambers, still hurt black votes and don’t give Democrats a full chance. to govern majorities. GOP legislative leaders have appealed Congress’s draft plan.

House Speaker Tim Moore, Senate Leader Phil Berger and other GOP lawmakers on July 13 asked to withdraw their card appeal to Congress. Phil Strach, an attorney for the Republicans, wrote that there was no need to spend taxpayers’ time and money on borders that won’t be used until 2022.

But Narendra Ghosh, an attorney representing some voters backed by a national Democratic redistricting group, says the Republicans’ removal request is “pure play” designed to bolster their position in the U.S. Supreme Court’s upcoming arguments on the power of state courts to control Congress. Plans.

Last month, the nation’s highest court agreed to hear Republicans in North Carolina’s separate appeal over the map of the state’s 14 seats in the United States. U.S. judges could decide by next year whether state courts have the power to change federal election rules and congressional redistricting plans.

Barringer criticized his fellow Democrats’ refusal to grant the lawmakers’ recall motion, adding that “the majority decision on these two motions … smacks of judicial activism and should deeply trouble every citizen of this state.” .

Unlike the original Congressional map of the legislature, which likely would have seen Republicans win 10 of the 14 seats, the interim plan would give Democrats a reasonable chance of winning seven of the seats.

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