Under the Dome

Lewis, Rucho call U.S. Supreme Court action ‘procedural’

The decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to prompt further review of the state’s elections maps is tied to a ruling the court entered this year in a similar Alabama case.

The nation’s highest court wants North Carolina’s Supreme Court to review previous decisions upholding the maps “in light of Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama.”

The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in the Alabama case in March, deciding not to uphold decisions that had approved the maps there.

The Alabama case was brought by African-American lawmakers and Democrats there who argued that the Republican-controlled legislature packed thousands of black voters into existing majority-black state legislative districts to secure a GOP-advantage in the other districts. Republican lawmakers maintained they were complying with one section of the federal Voting Rights Act in moving the black voters to existing majority-minority districts.

The authors of the maps in North Carolina say the case brought here challenging the maps is centered on a different part of the Voting Rights Act.

Rep. David Lewis, a Dunn Republican, and Senator Bob Rucho, a Charlotte Republican, are chairmen of House and Senate Redistricting Committees.

They released the following joint statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, which they characterized as “procedural.”

“Since 2011,” they said, “every court that has issued an opinion and the Obama Justice Department has reached the same conclusion – North Carolina’s redistricting maps are constitutional. Today’s procedural ruling is not unexpected and we are confident that our state Supreme Court will once again arrive at the same result and the U.S. Supreme Court will affirm its decision.”

Their offices said the U.S. Supreme Court has given the N.C. Supreme Court “the opportunity to consider the impact of its recent ruling in Alabama on North Carolina’s redistricting case.”

“The Alabama case is significantly different from the North Carolina case because it was based on a claim against the State of Alabama regarding Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act that alleged their redistricting maps resulted in fewer minorities serving in the state legislature than otherwise would be expected. North Carolina’s case involves a substantially different argument using Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. And unlike in Alabama, the outcome of North Carolina’s redistricting plan has been the election of a record number of minorities to the N.C. General Assembly – including the leaders of the Senate and House Democratic Caucuses.”

They said the U.S. Supreme Court has “simply issued a procedural order calling for further review of North Carolina’s case, it has not issued any opinion. Its action is not substantive and offers no indication of how it might rule on the merits of the North Carolina case.”

In North Carolina, a three-judge panel had unanimously ruled that congressional and legislative redistricting maps passed by the General Assembly in 2011 meet all applicable standards of federal and state law. That decision was upheld by the N.C. Supreme Court.