Panel of Federal Judges Orders NC Lawmakers to Adopt Special Master Map

(CN) – A panel of federal judges on Friday ordered North Carolina lawmakers to use district maps created by a Stanford University law professor in the coming elections in the second ruling this week on a state redistricting case.

The ruling comes less than a month before the North Carolina filing period opens on Feb. 12 for candidates wanting to contest seats in the state Senate and House of Representatives.

It also comes less than 24 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a ruling in a separate North Carolina gerrymander case in which a different three-judge panel ruled the state’s 13 congressional districts are unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders.

In October, the three-judge panel hearing Covington v. North Carolina informed the parties that it was appointing Stanford law professor Nathaniel Persily to review North Carolina’s newest legislative maps and, if necessary, help the judges redraw the lines in time for the 2018 election.

Persily has previously helped draw district likes for Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland and New York.

The plan  Persily came up with alters nine state legislative districts adopted by lawmakers in 2017 after a previous court ruling that found 28 of the state’s districts used for electing General Assembly members were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.

Among other things, the challengers argued that some of the 2017 districts still were shaped to weaken the overall influence of black voters.

Friday ruling adopted the Persily’s modified map for use in future North Carolina legislative elections.

“Accordingly, this Court’s previous injunction against the State from conducting any elections for State House and State Senate offices, Order and Judgment, Aug. 15, 2016, ECF No. 125, is dissolved,” the panel said. “We direct the Defendants to implement the Special Master’s Recommended Plans.”

Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, responded to word of the ruling by saying “we appreciate the input and guidance of the Special Master and the Court to fully eliminate the unconstitutional use of race to segregate voters in North Carolina state legislative districts.”

“North Carolinians across this state fought for fair districts. We hope that legislators respect the reasoned opinion of this court that this kind of race discrimination has no place in our democracy,” Riggs said.

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