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NC requests stay on districting decision

North Carolina has already filed an emergency stay with the U.S. Supreme Court after this weekend’s decision by three federal judges to throw out the state’s congressional voting maps, said Jane Pinsky, director of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform.

The stay — if granted — would temporarily suspend judgment on the North Carolina congressional district map until after the primary election season has ended.

According to the district court’s opinion, at least two congressional districts — district one, which includes parts of Durham and Greenville, and district 12, which includes part of Charlotte — were gerrymandered along racial lines and require new maps from the state within two weeks’ time.

The court determined some of the criteria used to draw voting districts were highly problematic.

“The state was using a threshold count of the black voting age population in the first and 12th districts,” said Michael Bitzer, political science professor at Catawba College. “Using this threshold was an unconstitutional principle on which to base voting districts.”

N.C. Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, said he doesn’t think the district court’s decision will gain traction, especially in light of the state’s legal challenge and the possibility of more to come.

Bitzer said the state’s challenge to the decision is based both in concerns about the limited time available to redraw admissible districts — with the March primary season fast approaching — as well as concerns about the ambiguity of how to deal with the thousands of absentee ballots that have been requested and the hundreds of such ballots that have already been completed and returned.

Pinsky said she doesn’t think legal challenges to this ruling will limit or negate the long-term positive effects of the decision on voting district reform.

“At some point they will have to do what the courts tell them to do,” she said.

Pinsky said it all has to do with political will, something that is often lacking.

“We have to stop letting those who have the biggest stakes in the outcome make all the rules,” she said.

She also emphasized North Carolina’s long history of legal battles over congressional maps — in the past 30 years, North Carolina has seen almost as many challenges, she said.

Bitzer said he was not at all surprised by the chaos surrounding the recent ruling or the resulting challenge.

“It’s not redistricting season unless there’s been a Supreme Court case out of North Carolina,” he said.

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