Last Wednesday, the N.C. Supreme Court certified new political maps in the state of North Carolina, establishing a new congressional map drawn by a panel of nonpartisan advisers while certifying the N.C. House and Senate maps proposed by lawmakers in the state.
This follows a Feb. 4 ruling by the N.C. Supreme Court, in which it rules that the Republican-drawn maps were unconstitutional.
The new congressional, House and Senate maps will take effect for the 2022 primary elections on May 17, according to Rachel Raper, director of the Orange County Board of Elections.
Under the new setup, Orange County will remain in District 4 of the congressional map. It will also remain in the 23rd district in the N.C. Senate and will retain its current boundaries in the N.C. House, including the 50th and 56th districts.
A contentious congressional map
After the rejection of their congressional map by the state courts, North Carolina Republicans are looking to the U.S. Supreme Court for support. On Friday, several members of the GOP submitted an application to consider overturning the new congressional map.
“The people of North Carolina will be harmed if instead, a handful of judges are permitted to outsource the creation of a congressional map to a hastily selected group of Special Masters and their assistants, working behind closed doors and in communication with Plaintiffs’ experts, and with less than a week to do their work,” they write in the application.
N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said in a statement that the Court’s decision to allow the congressional map to be drawn by individuals outside of the legislature is unconstitutional.
“Let me clear: This court has effectively taken a hammer to our state constitution and the rule of law, and I will appeal this ruling with respect to the congressional map immediately on behalf of the voters," he said in a statement on Feb. 23.
Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst at the John Locke Foundation, a conservative-leaning organization, wrote in an email that he believes that, with this decision, the courts have failed to establish a definitive standard to guide lawmakers.
“By throwing out the congressional map, the courts have reminded the General Assembly that judges are likely to continue to meddle in a process that is supposed to be left to the legislative branch,” he wrote.
Conversely, N.C. House Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Caswell, Orange, said he believes that the congressional map drawn by the legislature is reasonably fair and supported the Court’s decision to draw a new map.
“The legislature failed to enact a map that met the constitutional requirements, and so the courts were well within their rights to identify another process to draw a fair map for the elections,” he said.
J. Michael Bitzer, a political scientist from Catawba College, said it's possible that the Supreme Court might rule on the case.
“Considering that Justice Ginsburg, along with Justice Kennedy, are no longer on the Court, replaced by conservatives, I could see an opening for the U.S. Supreme Court to take up this case,” he said.
Michael Struett, an associate professor of political science at North Carolina State University, was more skeptical, citing recent decisions in which that body declared that it would not intervene in redistricting at the state level.
He said the Court’s decision would ultimately be based on how they wish to be perceived.
“It depends entirely on whether or not the U.S. Supreme Court wants to be viewed as upholding the rule of law or as a group of partisan hacks that are trying to maximize the advantages of the Republican Party,” he said.
Redrawn state maps
The state House map was passed with near-unanimous support.
“(We) showed that it is possible for legislators to work together to draw a map that meets the constitutional requirements and should be perceived as fair,” Meyer said.
The senate map, on the other hand, drew more contention.
In a Feb. 23 press release, Gov. Roy Cooper said that he believes that the state Senate map is unconstitutional.
“Today’s decision allows a blatantly unfair and unconstitutional State Senate map that may have been the worst of the bunch,” he said in the press release. “That is bad for North Carolina because it strips voters of their voice in our democracy. Our elections should not go forward until we have fair, constitutional maps.”
Meyer said that he was disappointed that the Senate map did not meet the same standards as the House map.
“(The Senate map) leans too heavily toward the Republicans to be considered a fair map,” he said.
The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, who filed the initial lawsuit against the state, said that they support the state House and congressional maps but do not support the Senate map.
“We are disappointed that this panel approved a state Senate map which fails to treat all citizens fairly and equally, regardless of party, race, or religion,” they said in a Feb. 23 statement.
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