CCNC asks court to require nonpartisan process for redrawing NC legislative map
Common Cause NC on Thursday asked a panel of federal judges to require that nonpartisan criteria be used for redrawing North Carolina’s legislative districts.
In a letter delivered to the federal Middle District Court in Greensboro, Common Cause NC urged the judges to mandate that new legislative districts be drawn with an eye toward compactness, contiguity and compliance with the Voting Rights Act, while ignoring partisan political data.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling that lawmakers had unconstitutionally gerrymandered dozens of legislative districts along racial lines. The Middle District Court will now direct the legislature on how to proceed in redrawing those gerrymandered districts.
“As we have seen, and as multiple court rulings validate, the NC General Assembly has proven itself incapable of drawing maps that pass constitutional muster and judicial scrutiny,” Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC, wrote in the letter to the court. “Most recently, when forced by the courts to redraw congressional districts in 2016, leadership in the General Assembly openly admitted that new districts would be drawn to maximize partisan advantage for the Republican Party.”
Phillips continued, “Therefore, we respectfully call on this court to require the use of strict, nonpartisan criteria when creating a new state legislative district plan.”
Common Cause NC recently conducted a simulation to demonstrate how nonpartisan redistricting can work in redrawing the state’s legislative voting maps.
As part of that simulation, Common Cause tasked law students at Campbell University in Raleigh with drawing legislative voting districts following strict nonpartisan criteria.
The maps produced by the law students were then reviewed and approved by a bipartisan panel of former legislators that included Republicans Charles Jeter and Carolyn Justice, Democrats Tony Foriest and Rick Glazier, and independent Paul Tine.
The maps drawn through the nonpartisan redistricting demonstration resulted in districts that are more compact than those drawn by state lawmakers. While legislators split more than 500 voting precincts in the maps they enacted, the maps drawn by the Campbell law students split just eight voting precincts. The nonpartisan maps drawn by the law students result in 45 legislative districts that are favorable to African-American candidates, compared to 33 such districts in the maps drawn by the legislature.
The nonpartisan redistricting criteria listed by Common Cause NC in its letter to the federal court, and which was used in the redistricting simulation, is based on the same criteria found in House Bill 200, which is co-sponsored by 39 members of the state House. The bill is identical to one passed with broad bipartisan support by the Republican-led NC House in 2011, but that stalled in the GOP-controlled NC Senate that year.