Common Cause North Carolina statement on court order that gerrymandered NC legislative districts be redrawn, special election held in 2017

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  • Bryan Warner

A federal court on Tuesday ordered North Carolina lawmakers to redraw the state’s legislative districts by March and ruled that a special legislative election must be held in 2017. The decision comes after the federal court ruled this summer that lawmakers had unconstitutionally gerrymandered 28 legislative districts along racial lines, but allowed the already scheduled 2016 legislative elections to proceed under those unconstitutional maps.

Earlier this year, a separate court case found that lawmakers had unconstitutionally gerrymandered the state’s congressional maps and ordered them to be re-drawn, necessitating a special June 2016 primary for North Carolina’s congressional races.

The following is a statement from Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, in response to today’s decision:

Once again, unconstitutional gerrymandering by the legislature has led to litigation and the need to hold a special election. This is a golden opportunity for state lawmakers to put North Carolina voters ahead of partisan politics and establish an independent process for re-drawing the state’s voting maps free from gerrymandering. Just this past session, a bipartisan majority of NC House members co-sponsored House Bill 92, which would have taken redistricting power out of the hands of partisan legislators and given it to nonpartisan legislative staff. We strongly urge lawmakers to pass that independent redistricting plan when they return for their new session in January, so that North Carolina citizens can finally have confidence that their legislative districts are drawn in a fair, impartial and constitutional way that avoids further confusion and delay.”

Independent redistricting reform has been sponsored multiple times by the current legislative leadership, including NC House Speaker Tim Moore, Rep. David Lewis, Senate President Pro-tem Phil Berger and Sen. Bob Rucho. 

Over 240 civic leaders across North Carolina have signed a petition calling on the legislature to pass independent redistricting reform. And a dozen towns and cities across the state have passed resolutions in support of independent redistricting.  This fall, over 50 North Carolina business leaders launched a coalition calling for an end to gerrymandering. Both Gov. Pat McCrory and Attorney General Roy Cooper are on record opposing gerrymandering, as are former governors Jim Martin and Jim Hunt. 

In August, Common Cause filed a potentially landmark lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina. 

Common Cause North Carolina is a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging citizen participation in democracy, and is part of the national Common Cause grassroots network of over 625,000 members and supporters in 35 states.