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It’s Districts Decision Week

By Wednesday, we may finally have final North Carolina congressional and state legislative maps for 2022 — and hopefully the rest of this decade.

We are a leading plaintiff in the case which ultimately struck down the General Assembly’s extreme partisan gerrymandering, and we submitted our proposed remedial maps to the court by last Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline. Those computer-drawn maps were the same as the ones we submitted with our original lawsuit in November. Now the three-judge Superior Court panel must choose district plans for U.S. House, state Senate, and state House by noon this Wednesday, February 23. 

The defendant state legislators who drew the original unconstitutional maps also submitted new maps which passed both chambers late last week. Another group of plaintiffs led by a voter named Rebecca Harper also submitted congressional and Senate maps for consideration, but agreed with the state House map which passed the General Assembly nearly unanimously. The three-judge panel combined the Harper lawsuit and ours at the trial level when they originally considered our cases. 

Last week, this panel appointed three former judges, called special masters, to help them consider the submitted maps or potentially draw new ones. They are former state Supreme Court Justices Bob Orr and Bob Edmunds and former UNC System President Thomas Ross. Orr is an independent former Republican, Edmunds a Republican, and Ross a Democrat. Ross is co-chair of North Carolinians for Redistricting Reform, and he and Orr were involved in a bipartisan redistricting reform study group convened a few years ago by Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. These special masters are generally considered fair arbiters.

Legislators’ redrawn districts are less gerrymandered than their previous attempts, but still fail the Supreme Court’s edict to give every North Carolina voter substantially equal power to elect leaders of their choice. Our maps come out on top across many metrics, including compactness, competitiveness, partisan symmetry, and limiting county splits.

The state Supreme Court ordered state candidate filing to resume under final maps this Thursday, February 24, at 8 a.m. — less than 24 hours after the lower court must approve maps. But any party in the case could still appeal the three-judge panel’s approved maps back to the Supreme Court by 5 p.m. Wednesday. With further consideration at that final level of jurisdiction likely taking another week or more, the Supreme Court would have to delay filing and likely also the primary, currently set for May 17.

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