RALEIGH – On Friday, attorneys for plaintiffs in the anti-gerrymandering case of Common Cause v. Lewis filed a brief objecting to 19 new NC House districts drawn by the legislature. Plaintiffs are asking the court to redraw the districts in question.
In the brief to the three-judge panel of the Wake County Superior Court, attorneys for Common Cause and other plaintiffs voice objection to the legislature’s remedial NC House maps in five county groupings: Columbus-Pender-Robeson; Forsyth-Yadkin; Cleveland-Gaston; Brunswick-New Hanover; and Guilford.
The brief raises objections to both the process by which these districts were drawn and the districts themselves for not meeting the court’s substantive criteria. Incumbents in these groupings acted with obvious partisan intent and disregarded the neutral, nonpartisan criteria that the court set forth. In some cases, incumbents were caught on microphones admitting that they were just trying to recreate their old districts.
Also, attorneys for the defendants improperly shared partisan data with members of the NC House Redistricting Committee, which clearly violated the court’s order that no partisan data be considered in the drawing of new districts.
Additionally, House members were permitted to engage in redrawing their own districts at a computer that was often out of earshot of the public, making it nearly impossible for members of the public to hear the conversations of lawmakers as they discussed changes to their districts.
“The deeply flawed map-drawing process employed by the House Redistricting Committee fell far short of the court’s clearly stated standards. Instead, incumbents had a hand in re-gerrymandering districts in these five county groupings,” said Brent Laurenz, deputy director of Common Cause NC. “The unauthorized sharing of partisan data, the lack of full transparency in drawing districts and the overemphasis on incumbent protection raise serious objections to these 19 new House districts. We believe the court should redraw these maps so residents are able to vote in districts for the 2020 election that are completely free from illegal partisan gerrymandering.”
The plaintiffs did not file objections to the newly drawn NC Senate districts.
About the case of Common Cause v. Lewis:
On Sept. 3, a panel of three judges in the Wake County Superior Court ruled unanimously in the case of Common Cause v. Lewis that the Republican-controlled NC General Assembly violated the North Carolina Constitution when it gerrymandered the state’s legislative districts for partisan gain. The court gave the legislature until Sept. 18 to draw new NC House and NC Senate districts, requiring that the districts be drawn following strict nonpartisan criteria and in full public view.
The new districts drawn by the legislature in response to the ruling have been submitted to the court for review. The court has appointed a referee, Professor Nathaniel Persily, to assist the judges in reviewing the maps for compliance and to potentially draw new maps that meet the constitutional standards set by the court.