Tags: NC | North Carolina | Redistricting

Another GOP Redistricting Map Ruled Unconstitutional

Image: Another GOP Redistricting Map Ruled Unconstitutional
State Senators Dan Soucek, left, and Brent Jackson, right, review historical maps during The Senate Redistricting Committee for the 2016 Extra Session in the Legislative Office Building at the N.C. General Assembly on Feb. 16, 2016, in Raleigh, N.C. (Corey Lowenstein/The News & Observer via AP)

Monday, 03 Apr 2017 08:11 PM

North Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature suffered another redistricting defeat Monday when a federal court ruled the map it drew and passed for boundaries for Greensboro's city council seats are unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles blocked permanently the enforcement of a 2015 law approved by the General Assembly that directed how council members in North Carolina's third-largest city would be elected and laid out new district lines. Some local citizens sued, and the city later joined in the lawsuit to challenge another provision preventing changes to Greensboro city government through local referenda.

Eagles sided with those who sued, who argued the challenged district boundaries were drawn to attempt to guarantee a partisan advantage for Republicans by packing Democratic voters in to certain districts, according to her ruling. She wrote population differences among the eight council districts created weren't justified by legitimate redistricting criteria. Democrats generally have comprised the majority of the council over the past two decades.

"This is not a case where it is difficult to discern legislative motivation," Eagles wrote. "The districting plan in the act violates the equal protection rights of the plaintiffs and all Greensboro voters."

Eagles likened the case to a matter in which the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last summer struck down district boundaries the legislature created for Wake County commissioners and school board members.

Previously, a three-judge panel also forced congressional district boundaries to be redrawn last year after determining two districts were illegal racial gerrymanders. A similar panel struck down close to 30 General Assembly districts for the same reasoning, although the U.S. Supreme Court so far has prevented them from being remapped this year. The legislative and congressional lawsuits remain under appeal.

The legislature or GOP legislative leaders weren't named defendants in the Greensboro case — the Guilford County election board was — although the challenged law was their responsibility. But the General Assembly leaders never formally intervened in the case, and the state Attorney General's Office, then run by current Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, declined to get involved.

Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, who was the impetus behind the 2015 boundaries, successfully deflected a subpoena for her to testify in the case, citing legislative immunity. Wade didn't respond to a phone message Monday seeking comment on Eagles' decision.

In 2015 while pushing for the law, Wade said people in many sections of Greensboro had little or no voice on the council, with five current members living in close proximity to each other. Council members didn't seek the changes. Local governments generally are allowed to redraw their own boundaries after decennial census figures are released, but the General Assembly can step in.

The lead attorney for the individuals who sued said she was pleased with the decision.

"When the legislature overreached into local politics, it did so with no regard for respecting the people's right to have their voice heard," said Allison Riggs with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. "Today, the court correctly provided a check for a gross legislative overreach."

The law also would have eliminated the Greensboro council's at-large seats, reduced the number of voting members from nine to eight and prevented the separately elected mayor from voting in most situations. The ruling also permanently blocked those changes. Eagles issued a separate ruling Monday throwing out the portion of the law prohibiting Greensboro from using referenda to change its form of government until after the 2020 census.

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North Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature suffered another redistricting defeat Monday when a federal court ruled the map it drew and passed for boundaries for Greensboro's city council seats are unconstitutional.U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles blocked...
NC, North Carolina, Redistricting
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2017-11-03
Monday, 03 Apr 2017 08:11 PM
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