North Carolina Republicans appear to be dragging their feet on drawing new districts to replace the ones found by a court a year ago to have discriminated against blacks.
At a hearing Thursday, federal judges asked why the process of drawing new state legislative districts was taking so long, and why a lawyer for the GOP-controlled legislature was asking for another three and a half months, The News and Observer of Raleigh reported.
“You don’t seem serious, so what’s our assurance that you are serious about remedying this?” U.S. Judge Catherine Eagles (pictured) asked the lawyer, Phil Strach.
When Strach objected to a schedule laid out by the plaintiffs in the case, saying it wouldn’t allow enough time for public hearings, Eagles, an Obama appointee, replied: “Well, that’s your fault.”
It was in August 2016 that the panel ruled that 28 of the state’s 170 legislative districts were racial gerrymanders, designed to reduce the voting power of African-Americans. In June, the Supreme Court affirmed that ruling.
But the high court blocked an order by the lower court that the state must hold elections under new maps by this fall, opening the door to the delay that’s now plaguing the process.
In another sign that the lawmakers may not be serious about fixing the problem, they’ve hired Thomas Hofeller, the same Republican mapmaker who drew the 2011 maps both for state legislative districts and congressional districts. The congressional map also has been found to be a racial gerrymander.
Republicans have benefited from the state legislative gerrymander. The maps have given them super-majorities in both chambers, which they’ve used, among other things, to pass legislation aimed at building their power.
Legislative leaders have said they plan to pass a new voter ID law after an earlier version was similarly struck down as racially discriminatory.