U.S. Supreme Court Orders into Effect Fixes for Racially Gerrymandered Districts for 2018 Election

Voting Rights
Puts hold on some of the Special Master’s districts related to state constitutional violations
WASHINGTON, D.C. – This evening the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a district court’s order that remedied racially gerrymandered districts that were first enacted in the state’s 2011 redistricting plan and would have been perpetuated by the legislature’s 2017 plan. The Supreme Court did stay revisions to a small number of districts that violate the state constitution, however.
The districts redrawn by the Special Master to correct racial gerrymandering concerns will go into effect this election cycle. The state court will likely determine the future of the districts in Wake and Mecklenburg Counties, which were ordered redrawn to comply with the state’s prohibition on mid-decade redistricting.
Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice who represents plaintiffs in the case, issued the following statement after the decision was announced:
“Finally, after years of litigation, North Carolinians will be able to elect their state legislators from districts that do not discriminate against voters based on their race. This decision represents a major victory for all North Carolinians who value fair elections and democratic principles.”
“To date, the legislature has done all that it can to obstruct, delay and undermine this order, which wastes time and taxpayer money. But now we’ll finally have districts that do not segregate voters on the basis of race. And despite this long and arduous journey, there are courageous people, like the plaintiffs in this case, who have not hesitated to stand up against every effort to abuse our democracy and unlawfully divide voters based on race. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is very proud and honored to represent them.”
“We are confident that the legislature’s gross abuse of its power will ultimately either be shot down on full appeal or addressed by the state court. We look forward to presenting our case to the U.S. Supreme Court on those merits to make sure that the final redistricting plan fully complies with North Carolina’s constitution.”
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice also represents plaintiffs in a state redistricting challenge, Dickson v. Rucho, which is currently before the Wake County Superior Court. That court could now take up the question of whether districts in Wake and Mecklenburg County need to be altered in order to avoid violating the state constitution.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, along with the Poyner Spruill law firm, represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Background about this case:
On June 5, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court summarily affirmed a lower court’s decision in Covington v. North Carolina that 28 of North Carolina’s state legislative districts are racial gerrymanders. The decision was issued “per curiam,” meaning by a unanimous decision of the Court. The ruling came two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court found two of the state’s congressional districts were also racial gerrymanders.
On July 31, 2017, North Carolina’s Middle District Court ordered the North Carolina General Assembly to redraw legislative maps by September 1, 2017, in order to remedy the unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The legislature adopted new maps on August 30, 2017.
Plaintiffs filed objections to the newly drawn district plans and a hearing was held in front of a three-judge panel in the Middle District of North Carolina on October 12, 2017.
On October 26, 2017, the federal panel announced its intention to appoint Dr. Nathaniel Persily to the position of “Special Master” to review the newly adopted redistricting plan and make recommendations to ensure compliance with state and federal law in a few areas of the map where the Court believed the remedial plan was inadequate or otherwise illegal. Dr. Persily’s appointment became official on November 1, 2017.
Dr. Persily issued draft recommended changes to the state’s redistricting plan on November 13, 2017, and solicited feedback from the plaintiffs and defendants. Both submitted comments.
Meeting the deadline set by the three-judge panel, Dr. Persily submitted his final set of recommendations to the district court on December 1, 2017.
The three-judge panel heard arguments from the plaintiffs and defendants regarding the Special Master’s plan on January 5, 2018.
On January 19, 2018, the three-judge panel ordered that the Special Master’s recommendations be incorporated into the state’s state legislative redistricting plan.