Critics of legislative voting districts propose alternative maps
The plaintiffs who successfully challenged the legality of state House and Senate districts say the district maps proposed by lawmakers create more problems than they fix.
So, the plaintiffs on Wednesday put forward their own proposed maps.
Lawmakers face a court-imposed Sept. 1 deadline to adopt new House and Senate district maps, and they were supposed to begin consideration of the maps on Thursday morning. After hearing hours of public criticism of the draft maps on Tuesday night and receiving the alternative maps on Wednesday, those meetings have been pushed back.
The Senate Redistricting Committee will now meet at 2 p.m. Thursday, while the House Redistricting Committee won’t meet until 9:30 a.m. Friday. That could push back floor votes on the maps until next week.
″[B]ased on our initial analysis, your proposed plans do not offer an adequate remedy and do not represent appropriate remedies free from other state and federal constitutional flaws,” Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represents the plaintiffs in the case, said in a letter to lawmakers.
Draft Senate map
The U.S. Supreme Court in June upheld the findings of a panel of three federal judges, who determined that the Republican-led General Assembly illegally packed too many black voters into a few districts in 2011 to strengthen GOP districts elsewhere.
The court’s findings of racial gerrymandering of 19 House districts and nine Senate districts prompted lawmakers to disregard the race of voters when crafting the new maps. Instead, they focused on maintaining their partisan advantage by factoring in voting patterns in recent elections and on protecting incumbents by not drawing them into the same districts.
Earls noted that substituting partisanship for race didn’t change the shape of voting districts in Cumberland and Guilford counties.
“First, it is plain that in several areas of both the House and Senate proposed maps, the constitutional violations are not cured and, indeed, the racially gerrymandering continues,” she wrote. “What is clear is that these districts do not fully correct the constitutional violations identified by the three-judge panel...”
Draft House map
The plaintiffs also contend that lawmakers unnecessarily redrew several districts in Wake and Mecklenburg counties. The districts weren’t ruled unconstitutional and don’t border any that were, Earls said, and the state constitution forbids changing any districts between U.S. censuses unless ordered to do so by a court.
Lawmakers also needlessly split Cabarrus County among three House districts and spread one House district in eastern North Carolina across three counties instead of containing it to two counties, they argue.
The alternative Senate map makes changes to districts in Cumberland and Hoke counties in in Guilford, Alamance and Randolph counties. The changes in the alternative House map are more numerous, spreading across the eastern two-thirds of the state.
“We request that these errors be remedied immediately and in full. Absent such action, we believe the court will have to draw a plan itself that fully remedies the violations, as it will not be able to approve these districts as an appropriate remedy,” Earls wrote in her letter.