NC NAACP vows to appeal redistricting decision
BY CASH MICHAELS
OF THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL
Vowing that they “plan to challenge” it, the NCNAACP this week blasted the decision by a three-judge Superior Court panel to uphold the 2011 Republican congressional redistricting map, which “stacked and packed” black voters into limited voting districts, as constitutional.
In its decision, rendered Monday, the judges unanimously ruled that while race may have been a factor in the Republican redistricting maps, political partisanship was the primary factor, and that is not illegal.
“Redistricting in North Carolina is an inherently political and intensely partisan process that results in political winners and, of course, political losers, the ruling read in part. “The political party controlling the General Assembly hopes, through redistricting legislation, to apportion the citizens of North Carolina in a manner that will secure the prevailing party’s political gain for at least another decade.”
The maps, which favor Republican majority reelection to the NC General Assembly and Congress, configure the North Carolina voting districts that will be in place until 2020
The NC NAACP and other progressive groups that filed suit to have the maps overturned, were not pleased.
“The NC NAACP is disappointed in the courts inability to accurately interpret applicable law, Rev. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP, said in a statement, calling the GOP redistricting plan “harsh, oppressive and racially divisive.”
“The court explained that the maps “do not impair the constitutional rights of the citizens of North Carolina as those rights are defined by law,” Rev. barber continued. “While the court does not disagree with the facts of this case they disagree with the application of the law. The North Carolina NAACP and our allies respectfully disagree. We contend that these maps were drawn unfairly and unnecessarily, and that the law is on our side.”
“This ruling is a sanction on political re-segregation which we plan to challenge,” Rev. Barber concluded.
The ruling is yet another blow to civil and voting rights handed down from the judiciary, progressive activists say, who are still reeling from the US Supreme Court’s recent decision to strike down Section Four of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, effectively rendering preclearance of redistricting maps meaningless until Congress reinstitutes a governing formula.
The three-member panel, consisting of Superior Court judges from different regions of the state – one of whom was an African-American female – issued a 171-page ruling which said, in part, ““It is the ultimate holding of this trial court that the redistricting plans enacted by the General Assembly in 2011 must be upheld and that the Enacted Plans do not impair the constitutional rights of the citizens of North Carolina as those rights are defined by law. This decision was reached unanimously by the trial court. In other words, each of the three judges on the trial court — appointed by the North Carolina Chief Justice from different geographic regions and each with differing ideological and political outlooks — independently and collectively arrived at the conclusions that are set out below.”
Calling the redistricting maps “fair [and] legal,” Republican redistricting leaders Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) and Rep. David Lewis (R- Harnett) boasted that the court’s decision confirms what they’ve contended from the beginning.
“This unanimous decision should put to rest the baseless arguments that the General Assembly engaged in racial discrimination during the redistricting process,” Rucho and Lewis said in a joint statement. “The court’s unanimous decision is a clear repudiation of the unfounded assertions of the plaintiffs, and is proof that the General Assembly followed the letter and spirit of the law in establishing new voting boundaries that are fair and legal. We are pleased that the unanimous decision makes clear that the General Assembly protected the rights of minority voters, as required by the U.S. and North Carolina Constitutions.”
Many observers have been calling for the NC Legislature to create a nonpartisan redistricting board to draw the voting maps in an effort to take the politics out of it.
“Redistricting in North Carolina is and has been for over a hundred years a partisan political process,” said Jane Pinsky of the NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform, in a statement. “It has always benefitted the party in power, punished the party out of power. It makes for a dysfunctional and polarized legislature and disincentives from working across the isle and in a broad, bi-partisan fashion.”
Pinsky continued, “It is time to change the process so that partisan politics no longer play a role in North Carolina’s redistricting. The North Carolina House of Representatives recognized this in May of 2011 with the passage of House Bill 824 which would have taken partisan politics out of redistricting beginning in 2021. With leadership from both sides of the aisle, including Speaker Thom Tillis, the bill passed the NC House by a vote of 88 to 27. House Bill 606, which is currently in the NC House, would do the same thing.”
“We applaud our political leaders who are putting of the good of the people of North Carolina ahead of partisan gain and urge them to move forward and pass House Bill 606 now,” Pinsky said, adding, “We urge the people of North Carolina to let their elected leaders know that this matters to them.”