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SCOTUS Strikes Down NC Congressional Maps – More Decisions Expected

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Legal observers say more pieces will be falling into place following this week's Supreme Court ruling on the drawing of North Carolina's Congressional districts. (WOKANDAPIX/PIXABAY.COM)
Legal observers say more pieces will be falling into place following this week's Supreme Court ruling on the drawing of North Carolina's Congressional districts. (WOKANDAPIX/PIXABAY.COM)
 By Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC, Contact
May 23, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. – If they were a term paper, some have observed, North Carolina's Congressional district maps would have more erasure marks than a fifth-grade book report.

Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race did play a factor in the way state lawmakers drew congressional maps after the 2010 Census. The decision upheld a ruling from the 4th District Court issued prior to the November 2016 election that prompted a redrawing of the maps at that time.

Wayne Goodwin is chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party and says Monday's decision won't likely be the last.

"The issue of gerrymandering and redistricting in North Carolina spawned a whole slew of lawsuits and they do overlap, so the decision today also is expected to have some impact on the pending litigation," he says.

Essentially, the Supreme Court ruling validated the lower court's order to redraw the maps, but the SCOTUS still must rule on a lawsuit alleging the new districts drawn in the fall are now gerrymandered to disproportionately put Democrats in three districts, making it easier for Republicans to hold the remaining 10 Congressional districts in question.

Bob Hall, the executive director of Democracy North Carolina, says it's important to resolve the districts at issue - so voters and North Carolina communities can move forward with the business at hand.

"It's better to have districts that are competitive and not super-Republican, or super-Democrat, because the people that live in them, if they're not in that party, then their votes are basically wasted because they just have no way of winning," he explains.

Hall adds that there is also a separate legal challenge alleging gerrymandering in state legislative districts. If successful, those district maps would also have to be redrawn.

Goodwin says the Supreme Court's ruling is an indicator that additional lawsuits will successfully prove race was a factor in district lines.

"No matter who is in charge, the lines need to be fair," he adds. "It is my hope that we will start to see things stabilize and that voters will not have to be confused or worry about where they live and what districts because the courts are being very direct that what has been happening, those are not acceptable."

Much of the legal challenge is based on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which requires that states draw districts enabling African Americans to elect their chosen representatives.

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