Unexpected turbulence: Elections ruling in NC by @BloggersRUs

Unexpected turbulence: Elections ruling in NC

by Tom Sullivan

Folks, this is your captain speaking. It looks like we've hit some unexpected turbulence and I'm going to turn on that seatbelt sign "DIIIIIING." Flight attenands please return to your seats. As soon as it smoothes out, we'll continue our service.

North Carolina last night hit a patch of turbulence in the form of a federal court ruling. This was still breaking last night (emphasis mine):

RALEIGH, N.C. — Three federal judges on Friday threw out the congressional voting maps the Republican-led General Assembly drew five years ago, ruling that two districts were gerrymandered along racial lines.

The ruling throws the March 15 primary into chaos, as the judges ordered state lawmakers to redraw the maps within two weeks and not to hold any elections for U.S. House until the maps are in place. A special session of the legislature would have to be called to approve new maps, and they might have to pass federal muster again.

Which is not to say that the clever, well-paid consultants who drew the districts for the GOP the first time won't get overtime and bonuses to redraw them within two weeks just as cleverly, if more subtly. Redrawing CDs 1 and 12 will cascade down to adjoining districts. Of course, the Republicans will appeal immediately.

The judges were not impressed by the state's defense:

Friday’s ruling was strongly worded in discounting the legislature’s claims that race played no part in drawing the new maps, saying the redistricting had fundamentally affected citizens’ rights to vote.

“The record is replete with statements indicating that race was the legislature’s paramount concern,” the ruling says.

Furthermore, WRAL reports:

"There is strong evidence that race was the only nonnegotiable criterion and that traditional redistricting principles were subordinated to race," 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Roger Gregory wrote for the court. "In fact, the overwhelming evidence in this case shows that a (black voting-age population) percentage floor, or a racial quota, was established in both CD 1 and CD 12. And, that floor could not be compromised."

The Washington Post gives a hint of the coming chaos:

North Carolina congressional primaries are scheduled March 15, with mail-in absentee ballots already being turned in. Other adjoining districts would have to be adjusted, too.

“The trial court’s 11th-hour decision that throws an election already under way into turmoil,” GOP Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Bob Rucho, chairmen of General Assembly redistricting committees, said in a release, suggesting a primary delay was possible without intervention. “This decision could do far more to disenfranchise North Carolina voters than anything alleged in this case.”

Rucho should know. He was in charge of the 2011 gerrymander.

ABC News:

[T]he ruling marked the first time judges had struck down specific districts drawn by GOP legislators during this round of congressional and legislative redistricting. There are two other pending legal cases alleging illegal racial gerrymandering. The 2011 lines, which were initially signed off on after review by the U.S. Justice Department, have helped Republicans expanded their majorities at the General Assembly and within the state's congressional delegation.

Rev. William Barber, head of the NC NAACP said in his statement, “This ruling by all three judges is a vindication of our challenge to the General Assembly of North Carolina writing racially biased ‘apartheid’ voting districts to disenfranchise the power of the African-vote.”

In my wallet I have a list of calls to return from people with absentee ballot questions ahead of the March primary. Those are going to be some interesting conversations.