Special Master Ordered in North Carolina Racial Gerrymandering Case

GREENSBORO, N.C. – A federal three-judge panel has appointed a “special master” to “assist the Court in evaluating” the districts that Plaintiffs explained either failed to cure the racial gerrymandering the court unanimously found in 2016 or violate the state constitution.  The Special Master will also help in “developing an appropriate plan remedying any problem with” districts in the plan adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly in August 2017 that the court may find inappropriate as a remedy. The remedial redistricting process took place after the same three-judge panel found 28 districts to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders in 2016.

The order announces the court’s intention to appoint Professor Nathaniel Persily, a professor at the Stanford School of Law, as the special master to review the redistricting proposal.  The full court order can be read at http://bit.ly/SpecialMaster.

Anita Earls, Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and lead attorney for plaintiffs in the case, issued the following statement after receiving the court’s order:

“It has been shown time and again that the state legislature refuses to draw fair districts that comply with the law. Our clients are hopeful that this process will result in fair districts for all North Carolinians.”


More information about this case:

Covington v. North Carolina was filed in May 2015.

In August 2016, the federal three-judge panel found that 28 districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders but noted that it was too close to the 2016 general election for the problem to be fixed that year.

In November 2017, the three-judge panel ordered new districts to be drawn by March 2017 and for a special election to be held in the Fall of 2017.

The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the lower court’s order for a special election in January 2017 while it decided whether or not to consider the case.

On June 5, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agrees with the lower court’s finding that 28 state legislative districts were racial gerrymanders and sent the matter back down to the three-judge panel in North Carolina’s Middle District Federal Court to determine an appropriate remedy.

In late July 2017, the three-judge panel ordered the legislature to correct the racial gerrymandering through a legislative process. After a new redistricting proposal was adopted by the N.C. General Assembly, plaintiffs objected to several districts that failed to remedy the racial gerrymandering or drew new district lines in areas that shouldn’t have redrawn.

The special master appointed by the court will now review those districts and consider appropriate remedies.