State Watch

Federal judges order new North Carolina district lines

Three federal judges on Monday ordered North Carolina’s state legislature to draw new legislative district boundaries within a month, the latest ruling against boundaries drawn by Republicans that judges have found improper.

The unanimous ruling ordered the legislature to draw new district lines by Sept. 1. The order impacts 28 of the state’s 170 General Assembly districts, which the court said last year discriminated against African-American voters by weakening their political power.

The Supreme Court in June upheld the lower court ruling singling out those 28 districts. In May, the Supreme Court ruled that two North Carolina congressional districts were drawn with improper considerations on race.

The new ruling will not impact the composition of the Republican-dominated legislature this year — the court did not order new elections ahead of the 2018 midterms, something that Democrats who sued to overturn the lines had sought.

{mosads}But it will force Republicans who run the legislature to draw new lines at a faster pace. During oral arguments earlier this month, the judges questioned whether legislators had been taking their order to draw new district lines seriously.

Democrats and civil rights groups hailed the order, which they said proved Republicans had reached too far in drawing maps that favored their candidates.

“We are encouraged by today’s court ruling and hope that this decision allows North Carolina citizens to finally get the fair representation from their state government they deserve,” state Democratic Party Chairman Wayne Goodwin said in a statement. “As the ruling outlined, this unconstitutionally elected Republican caucus has dragged their feet for far too long on drawing democratic maps.”

The ruling is the latest to sanction Republican lawmakers for maps drawn after the 2010 census, when the GOP seized control of both North Carolina’s state legislature and its congressional delegation.

Last year, courts ruled that two of North Carolina’s congressional districts were drawn with the intention of diminishing the political power of black voters. Even before the final ruling, though, the legislature voted to redraw districts held by Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D) and Alma Adams (D), preserving the balance of the state’s 10 Republican, three Democrat congressional delegation.

State legislative Republicans did not publicly react to the ruling by Monday evening, but legislative leaders have already been preparing for a special session meant to redraw legislative district lines.

Republicans have hired Thomas Hofeller, a long-time redistricting expert who has headed remapping efforts at the Republican National Committee, to draw new district lines once that session begins.

Tags G.K. Butterfield

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