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Motion Denied: State Must Redraw Districts by February 19

The future of North Carolina's March 15 Primary is in question after a federal appeals court ordered the state to redraw the districts. The state is has asked the court to reconsider the decision. (southernfried/morguefile.com)
The future of North Carolina's March 15 Primary is in question after a federal appeals court ordered the state to redraw the districts. The state is has asked the court to reconsider the decision. (southernfried/morguefile.com)
February 10, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to grant an emergency stay of a federal appeals court order for the state to redraw Congressional Districts 1 and 12 by Feb. 19, in advance of the March 15 primary.

The districts were found unconstitutional by a federal appeals court on Friday and that same court late Tuesday denied the state's request to wait until after the 2016 elections to redraw lines.

Experts say it's important to note that this is not the first time the state has faced judicial challenges in its redistricting process.

Jane Pinsky, director with the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, says this year is the 31st time since 1980 the courts have had to intervene, and that's a sign something more needs to be done, other than just redrawing the districts.

"We can alter these two districts, but that's just a symptom of an underlying problem," says Pinsky. "We have a redistricting process that lets the party with the majority draw the maps, with little or basically no input from anybody else."

District 1 is located largely east of Raleigh and District 12 currently stretches from parts of Greensboro down to Charlotte. Pinsky and others argue that redistricting should be done after every Census by an independent staff, and the state should require districts be made up of whole counties when possible and not consider where incumbents and challengers live when evaluating the map.

Allison Riggs, senior attorney with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, acknowledges the timeline is tight with the primary approaching, but says it's a perfect storm of the state's own making.

"To the extent this is a problem, it's a problem of the state's making," says Riggs. "One for drawing these districts that were unconstitutional to begin with when everyone told them that, and two it was just late this past fall when they moved all the primaries up to March, knowing all of this litigation was pending."

According to Common Cause North Carolina, more than 3 million North Carolinians reside in 41 state House districts that have no competition in this year's election, and nearly 2.5 million live in state Senate districts where just one candidate is running. Pinsky says that issue is a symptom of the current system.

"As we move to very partisan districts, we get people who aren't willing to compromise when they get to Congress or to the legislature, or the city council or the county commission and so we get gridlock," says Pinsky.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC