Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. NAACP, on Tuesday called on the N.C. General Assembly to “cease and desist” all legislative action until the state’s election maps have been redrawn.
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a ruling that found racial gerrymandering had been used in 28 North Carolina legislative districts. The case involving House and Senate districts was sent back to a panel of three federal judges to weigh their next action.
The Supreme Court vacated the lower court’s previous order that had required new maps and a special election in 2017. The panel of judges responded late last week that it plans to act quickly. The judges issued questions for all the parties in the lawsuit, including whether legislators have drafted any maps.
Gov. Roy Cooper, who has called for special elections before the next legislative session, tried to force legislators to draw new maps in a special session, but Republican lawmakers refused and called it a political stunt. The governor and others have said the gerrymandered maps have created rigged elections.
“The all-white, extremist caucus that has hijacked the Republican Party has ignored the governor’s call of a special session,” Barber said at the news conference outside the Legislative Building. “Currently, we have an unconstitutionally constituted, illegal body leading our state legislature.”
Barber said the North Carolina NAACP and the Moral Fusion Movement were working together to demand the state legislature cease passing any more bills. Barber said the lawmakers have used their powers to pass the “worst voter suppression bill,” deny Medicaid expansion and cut public education.
Barber also said the NAACP is working on writing briefs to submit to the court asking for a special election this year.
“It’s not too late. There’s precedent in history before of having elections in an off year,” said Barber. “We cannot continue to have this kind of criminalization of power.”
Some who attended the news conference delivered letters to the offices of Senate leader Phil Berger and Speaker Tim Moore and other lawmakers saying all legislative activity must stop until “lawful maps” of the state have been drawn.
“The courts have rejected maps drawn by both Democrat and Republican-controlled legislatures in multiple instances over the past few decades, including maps drawn by former redistricting chair Roy Cooper,” Berger’s spokeswoman Amy Auth said in a statement. “Just like those legislatures, we will not abandon our constitutional duties as we await specific instruction from the courts, and we will continue to focus on passing a balanced state budget that raises teacher pay, provides relief to the communities affected by Hurricane Matthew and puts money back into the pockets of middle-class families.”
Matthew Adams: 919-829-4806 @MatthewAdams60