The 4th Circuit Court has scheduled a hearing for July 27 on the timeline for re-drawing North Carolina’s gerrymandered state legislative districts and whether to have special elections.
As a reminder, approximately 83 % of North Carolinians have not had an opportunity for constitutional representation in the State Legislature since 2012.
Quick & Dirty “Covington” Re-cap
The US Supreme Court affirmed the 4th Circuit finding that 9 of the NC state Senate Districts and 19 of the NC State House Districts were unconstitutional because they were racial gerrymanders in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment (“Covington v. North Carolina”).
The NC Legislative districts ruled unconstitutional were drawn after the 2010 census by Tom Hofeller, a private consultant hired by State Senator Rucho and State Representative Lewis.
Dr. Thomas Hofeller was deployed as part of the Republican State Leadership Committee’s Redistricting Majority Project (REDMAP) and has been profiled in The Atlantic’s “The League of Dangerous Mapmakers” and in David Daley’s book “Ratf**ked”.
The US District Court Opinion in “Covington” tells the story of Hofeller being instructed by Rucho and Lewis in private meetings to draw maps that “packed” African-American voters into the strangely shaped districts that gave rise to these court cases. The Court Opinion reports testimony that Rucho and Lewis gave directions to Hofeller verbally so that there would not be email records of the instructions. Hofeller did not attend or read transcripts of any of the NCGA’s redistricting committees meetings, or any public redistricting forums.
The NC legislative districts were drawn so as to “pack” African American voters into “Majority-Minority” districts that “bleached” the surrounding districts to be “safe” districts for conservative white candidates.
Court Orders, Timelines and Lack of Action
On August 11, 2016, the US District Court ordered the NCGA to redraw the legislative districts at its “next legislative session”.
The NCGA did not redraw the maps.
On November 29, 2016, the Court issued an Order to re-draw the maps by March 15 and hold Special Elections in 2017.
The NCGA did not re-draw the maps.
The NC GOP appealed the case to SCOTUS.
In December 2016, the NCGA held three “Special Sessions” and did not re-draw the maps.
On June 5th, The US Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s original opinion from August, which included the Court’s instruction for the NCGA to redraw the maps during their “next legislative session”.
The Supreme Court ALSO sent the timeline and Order for special elections in the November 29th Order back to the 4th Circuit for additional consideration.
On June 7, the Governor ordered the NCGA to redraw the maps at a special session to start June 8 – but instead of drawing the maps, the NCGA all went home.
June 30th, the 4th Circuit resumed formal jurisdiction from the Supreme Court.
July 6th, the Executive Director of the State Board of Elections’ husband, Phil Strach, filed a brief on behalf of the NCGA saying, basically, that it would be kind-of a pain to have special elections and really what is the big deal about racial gerrymandering anyway? He also wants time to pretend that the NCGA will listen to people in NC (like all of the phony “public hearings” that were disregarded in drawing the 2011 maps).
Tuesday, the NC NAACP filed a “friend of the court” brief asking for a Special Master to draw the maps and for Special Elections this year.
The 4th Circuit could *possibly* appoint a “Special Master” to draw the maps, and order special elections this year – we don’t know yet.
If you are thinking, “Gee, how much damage could the NCGA really do – we may as well wait another year” . . . well, remember “HB2”? The “Motorcycle Vagina” law? Allowing pig poop to be sprayed in the air and on people’s homes with impunity? How about the $$$12.9 MILLION of taxpayers money going to defend bad laws in court? That’s why we need elections in 2017.