LAURINBURG — State Rep. Garland Pierce is among those heartened by last week’s decision by a federal court’to strike down North Carolina’s congressional map.
The three-judge panel said partisan motives behind the redistricting plan violated the Constitution’s equal protection provision because it took the power to elect representatives away from the people.
“It should be up to North Carolina voters to decide on their representatives, not lawmakers,” said Pierce, D-Scotland, whose current district includes part of Richmond County. “I disagree with the maps being drawn to give either Republicans or Democrats an unfair advantage.”
Pierce and civil rights advocates said the maps have given Republicans the upper hand for the past decade.
“The General Assembly enacted the plan with the intent of discriminating against voters who favored non-Republican candidates … and no legitimate state interest justifies the 2016 Plan’s discriminatory partisan effect,” U.S. Circuit Court Judge Jim Wynn wrote in the majority opinion.
The Rev. Anthony Spearman, the state NAACP president, called Tuesday’s ruling “a mammoth decision.”
U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield agreed.
“The decision reaffirms my long held belief that Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly drew the congressional map with the express purpose of maximizing the number of Republican congressional districts,” Butterfield said.
According to the Democratic congressman, Republicans comprise 30 percent of registered voters in North Carolina, but crafted a congressional map that would ensure Republican success in 10 of 13 districts, or 76 percent.
“The Republicans made this case relatively simple when they admitted in court that the congressional map was drawn for partisan political advantage,” Butterfield said.
The state’s Republican leaders have vowed to seek a delay to the court’s order that they draw new district lines in the coming weeks. Because partisan gerrymandering cases from other states are before the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices may postpone the effect of the North Carolina ruling.
“We obviously disagree with the ruling,” House Speaker Tim Moore of Cleveland County told reporters, “and will take it up to the highest court available.”
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger said he hopes the Court issues an immediate stay of the decision.
“A three-judge panel with a majority of liberal appointees is seeking to usurp the N.C. General Assembly’s constitutional authority by improperly ordering the redrawing of North Carolina’s Congressional lines,” said the Charlotte Republican. “Democrats can’t win elections so they strategically go to liberal appointed judges to change the maps to give themselves an advantage.”
Either way, Tuesday’s court decision is expected to affect how the state picks members of Congress. New maps would send candidates scrambling and could create a more favorable environment for Democrats, who hold only three of the state’s 13 U.S. House seats. But even if the redrawing is postponed, a political scientist says resentment of “greedy” Republican maps could aid left-leaning candidates now armed with blunt language from federal judges.
The North Carolina General Assembly has until Jan. 29 to enact a remedial plan; the federal court plans to employ a special master to draw an alternative remedial plan, and the remedial plan should be enacted before the 2018 congressional elections.
Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023.