North Carolina’s federal Middle District Court will consider when new districts are to be drawn and elections to be held
WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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 U.S. Congressional districts were also racial gerrymanders.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has finally and emphatically confirmed what we’ve known for years – that many of North Carolina’s state legislative districts are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The order reaffirms that our clients, and the voters of this state, are entitled to have fair legislative districts that do not discriminate against voters based on their race,” said Anita Earls, Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay in January, which did not affect the merits of the lower court’s decision but delayed its remedy calling for a special election in 2017. The stay is now lifted, and the order has been sent back to North Carolina’s Middle District Court to re-establish timelines for drawing new districts and holding state legislative elections. In its 2016 order for the General Assembly to draw new districts and hold elections in 2017, the three-judge panel wrote, “[w]hile special elections have costs, those costs pale in comparison to the injury caused by allowing citizens to continue to be represented by legislators elected pursuant to a racial gerrymander.”
“The court previously called for holding elections later this year in newly drawn districts. We think there is still time to implement special elections in the impacted districts, and we will do everything we can to make sure that happens,” added Anita Earls. “Many North Carolinians have been participating in unfair elections in racially gerrymandered districts for far too long. It’s time to fix this problem.”
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, along with the Poyner Spruill law firm, represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.