NC high court hears opposing arguments on 2011 redistricting

ablythe@newsobserver.comJanuary 6, 2014 

— Two North Carolina Supreme Court justices had a handful of questions Monday for attorneys arguing for and against the constitutionality of the current congressional and legislative districts.

The questions about how the arguments fit with previous rulings on similar matters came amid two hours of arguments in a case that will decide whether maps from a 2011 redistricting directed by the Republican-led General Assembly will be used through 2020.

Paul Newby, a justice whose re-election in 2012 has made him the target for two requests to recuse himself from hearing the case, was there for the arguments but asked no questions.

Democratic voters and others challenging the 2011 boundaries have unsuccessfully sought to have Newby removed from hearing the case. They argued that Newby had a legal conflict of interest because a Republican group interested in keeping the legislative boundaries had indirectly contributed more than $1 million to his bid for the bench.

Democratic voters and civil rights organizations challenging the maps argue that 30 districts drawn in 2011 were designed to weaken the overall influence of black voters in North Carolina.

The map challengers contend that the shepherds of the redistricting packed black voters into districts where they had already been successful in electing their candidates of choice despite being in the minority.

The courts have allowed parties to draw districts for political advantage, but prohibit racial gerrymandering.

Republicans have argued that they followed the law when creating the districts. The U.S. Justice Department, whose leadership was appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama, found that the maps did not hurt the ability of minorities to elect candidates of their choice and “pre-cleared’ them under a procedure laid out by the federal Voting Rights Act.

A three-member panel of N.C. Superior Court judges ruled in favor of the mapmakers in July and rejected many of the same arguments made before the state Supreme Court justices on Monday.

The justices offered no indication during the hearing of how or when they might rule.

Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1

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