North Carolina Republicans are set to continue reaping the benefits of their racial gerrymander through the end of next year, thanks to a new court ruling and their own delaying tactics.
A panel of federal judges on Monday ordered the state to draw new, fairer state legislative districts by September 1. But it did not call for special elections, meaning the new maps won’t be used until November 2018.
A federal court found a year ago that 28 of the state’s 170 legislative districts were racial gerrymanders, and ordered that special elections be held under new maps this year. But since then, Republicans have dragged their feet on the process, and the Supreme Court earlier this summer put the special election order on hold, though it upheld the racial gerrymander finding.
In Monday’s ruling, the court ultimately decided there wasn’t enough time for special elections.
It all means that Republicans will maintain their super-majorities in both state houses, even though they were achieved through maps, drawn in 2011, that were ruled to have illegally discriminated against African-Americans. The state’s congressional maps also were found to have been a racial gerrymander.
Legislative leaders have hired the same Republican mapmaker who drew the 2011 maps to draw the new maps.
The GOP has used its super-majorities to muscle through controversial legislation vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. Legislative leaders have said they plan to pass a new voter ID law, after a 2013 version was struck down as racially discriminatory.
Allison Riggs, a lawyer for the Southern Coalition for Justice, which challenged the districts, nonetheless cheered Monday’s ruling.
“The court’s decision affirms the urgency with which we must address this wrong committed against North Carolina voters,” Riggs said. “This prompt redrawing will allow North Carolinians to at least rest assured, knowing which districts they will be living in come the November 2018 elections, and that the federal court will be reviewing the remedial plans closely to ensure they are legal.”
Photo: North Carolina State Capitol (Creative Commons)