A unanimous three-judge bipartisan panel upheld the newly drawn maps for the North Carolina legislative election. But the same panel rejected a revised map for the congressional elections.
Instead of a corrective map of Congress drawn by the Republican-led General Assembly, the justices replaced their own map for the 2022 congressional elections. A panel of three “special masters” drew this map for the justices .
The panel’s 23-page order was released shortly after the noon deadline set by the North Carolina Supreme Court. Appeals against the decision of the three-judge panel must be made to the High Court by 5pm today. Nominations for all NC elections, including legislative and congressional races related to disputed maps, are expected to resume Thursday morning.
“The Court finds that the Senate recovery plan meets the standards of the Supreme Court,” according to the order of Justices Graham Shirley and Nathaniel Poovey, both Republicans, and Dawn Layton, a Democrat. “The Court finds that the Houses’ Remedial Plan meets the Supreme Court’s standards. »
“Because the Court finds that the adopted Senate and House recovery plans meet the standards and requirements of the Supreme Court in the Supreme Court’s Remedies Order and Comprehensive Opinion, the Senate Recovery Plans and of the House are presumed to be constitutional,” the order added. “Furthermore, no evidence presented to the Court is sufficient to rebut this presumption for the Senate and House remedial plans, and these plans are therefore constitutional and will be approved.”
The unanimous panel came to a different conclusion on the Congressional map. This “does not meet the standards of the Supreme Court”.
“The plaintiffs suggest that if we find that a reorganization plan adopted by the General Assembly does not meet the Supreme Court’s standards, we should simply abandon that plan and adopt one of their plans,” the panel wrote. of three judges. “We do not believe that our finding on Congress’s recovery plan — that it fails the Supreme Court’s standards — automatically results in the adoption of an alternative plan proposed by the plaintiffs.”
“Since the ultimate authority and direction is given to the Legislature to draw redistricting maps, we conclude that the appropriate remedy is to amend Congress’s legislative relief plan to bring it into conformity with the order of the Supreme Court,” the three-judge panel continued. .
A “provisional” congressional map drawn by special masters Bob Edmunds and Bob Orr, former justices of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, and Thomas Ross, former justice and former president of the UNC system, will be used for the 2022 elections A new General Assembly would be free to redraw the Congress map for future elections.
Edmunds, Orr and Ross explained their findings in a note.
“There is disagreement between the parties on whether the relief plan proposed by Congress meets the presumptive constitutional thresholds suggested by the Supreme Court,” they wrote. “The Special Masters, considering the reports of their advisers and the parties’ experts while giving appropriate deference to the General Assembly, are of the opinion that the remedial plan proposed by Congress does not meet the threshold of constitutionality and recommend that the trial court rejects the proposed Congressional relief plan as unconstitutional.
The special masters used the General Assembly recovery plan as a starting point for the revisions.
“The Special Masters believe that the amended congressional plan recommended for trial court passage achieves the partisan fairness and “substantially equal voting power” required by the North Carolina Supreme Court without diluting the votes under the Voting Rights Act while maintaining the number of county splits, maintaining equal population, compactness and adjacency, while respecting municipal boundaries,” they wrote.
Lawmakers were forced to redraw their initial set of maps of the NC House, NC Senate and Congress due to a Feb. 4 order from the state Supreme Court. In a 4-3 party decision, the four High Court Democrats agreed that the original cards represented unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.
When the Supreme Court ruling forced lawmakers to approve new maps last week, NC House’s plan won broad bipartisan support. The House approved it, 115-5, while the Senate approved it, 41-3.
New maps for the state Senate and the 14-member congressional delegation created a more partisan divide. Only Republicans voted for the plans. Almost all of the votes against the plans came from Democrats.
Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, blasted the court’s decision. “Today’s ruling authorizes a grossly unfair and unconstitutional State Senate map that could have been the worst of the bunch,” Cooper said in a prepared statement. “It’s bad for North Carolina because it robs voters of their voice in our democracy.”
“Our elections shouldn’t be held until we have fair constitutional maps,” Cooper added.