Even though the North Carolina General Assembly has been less active this week in terms of legislative action, here's what you might have missed:
North Carolina gerrymandering returns to court
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a partial stay in the North Carolina v. Covington case, blocking a voting map drawn by a federal court after claims the General Assembly wrongly used racial gerrymandering and violated state law.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who hears emergency petitions like this one, delivered the partial stay on district revisions of House districts in Wake County and Mecklenburg County only, pending the appeal to the Supreme Court. The five districts in those counties that had conflict were alleged to have violated a provision in the state constitution regarding redistricting timetables. Roberts gave no reasoning for his decision.
The order also mentioned by name Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, detailing what position the justices took on the decision. It noted that Thomas and Alito would grant the application for a stay in its entirety and Ginsburg and Sotomayor would deny the application for a stay in its entirety. It gave no reasoning for these positions either.
There was no mention of Justices Elena Kagan, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer or the newly-appointed Neil Gorsuch.
Tuesday’s order means the lower court’s ruling will stay in effect for the time being during the appellate process, leaving in place replacement maps drawn up by Nathaniel Persily of Stanford University, referred to in court documents as “Special Master.”
This legal process started after the 2010 census led to redistricting efforts in the N.C. Legislature, which have been in court multiple times — first in Dickson v. Rucho, then in Cooper v. Harris (formally McCrory v. Harris), then the first North Carolina v. Covington case, and now the current proceedings.
Raleigh prepares for a march
The NAACP will host the Moral March on Raleigh Saturday morning to call to action on various issues ranging from education to redressing history to military presence abroad.
The march began in December 2006 when N.C. NAACP leadership held a meeting of organizers, political scientists, lawyers, religious leaders and activists, the organization said on their website. Two months later, the Historic Thousand on Jones Street Coalition held the first People’s Assembly and worked to write their policy goals into bills introduced in legislative sessions.
Last year, the Moral March on Raleigh and HKonJ People’s Assembly consisted of 80,000 supporters that gathered in downtown Raleigh and marched to the State Capital.
The march is scheduled to last from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
NC Policy Watch releases new criticisms
NC Policy Watch, a news and commentary outlet under the NC Justice Center, released a article Tuesday claiming that since Republicans gained control of the General Assembly in 2011, there has been a broad and steady decline in open debate and fair process.
Rob Schofield, the author of the report and the director of NC Policy Watch, started with detailing the change in the process for legislative sessions since 2011. He explained that the General Assembly has changed the session system, increasing the number of special sessions and decreasing the regularity of the schedule from what it had previously been.
Schofield also discussed the practice lawmakers have recently used where only a small number of lawmakers have been convening and not taking any formal action, calling them “skeletal” sessions — exemplified by this week’s legislative action.
He added that another example of his argument is Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble’s decision to get rid of tabling — civic and advocacy groups reserving space to share information and promote causes to lawmakers.
Schofield said the press corps on Jones Street are becoming overrun and are being forced to accept whatever treatment they get. He said the darkness enveloping the General Assembly requires a more forceful pushback.
“Without it, a small portion of our democracy is dying each day,” Schofield said in the article.
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