Four days after the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously ruled 28 of North Carolina’s legislative districts unconstitutional, three federal judges released a memorandum stating they plan to act quickly. These judges have the ability to call for special 2017 elections and are requesting that the North Carolina General Assembly acts quickly in redrawing the districts as quickly as possible. North Carolinians are currently being represented by lawmakers who were elected based on racially gerrymandered districts and it’s time to elect lawmakers that truly represent the people.
The challengers of the 2011 redistricting plan submitted a request on Thursday to the three-judge panel asking for quick resolution to fix the gerrymandered districts.
In their request, the challengers told the judges that legislative leaders were opposed to their request, that the state Board of Elections had no position on the matter, and “that the State of North Carolina ‘agrees that the public interest calls for a prompt decision on the possibility of a special election in 2017.’ ”
Such a stance could raise new questions about who represents the state – the legislative branch or the executive branch.
Gov. Roy Cooper, the Democrat at the helm of the executive branch, called a special 14-day session this week for the legislative branch to draw new maps to correct the racial gerrymandered districts that have been used for the past three election cycles. The legislators quickly canceled the session.
“The parties are advised that the Court intends to act promptly on this matter upon obtaining jurisdiction from the Supreme Court,” the memorandum released on Friday states and asks the legislative leaders, the state elections board and “the state” to submit statements that address the concerns of the challengers “as expeditiously as possible.”
Among the questions the court invites the parties to answer are:
▪ The “severity and nature” of the illegal gerrymanders.
▪ “The extent of the likely disruption to the ordinary processes of governance if early elections are imposed” and how much leeway the judges should have to impose special elections this year.
▪ Who has the authority to speak for the state – the legislative branch, the governor’s office, the state attorney general or state board of elections when addressing such questions as to how quickly new districts should be drawn, who should be tasked with drawing them and whether there are any additional remedies for correcting the illegal gerrymanders to be considered by the court.