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Posted by on Jun 30, 2015

US Supreme Court – citizens can have a say in redistricting

Monday, June 29th, the US Supreme Court upheld the right of Arizonans to use a citizens’ initiative to draw Congressional districts and reduce gerrymandering. This is good news for the people of Arizona but doesn’t help North Carolinians end gerrymandering in North Carolina.
Former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot, who with former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker is a leader of the campaign to change how North Carolina does redistricting said “The decision is good news because it reinforces the importance of citizens in the redistricting process. North Carolinians need to keep working to make a change our system. ”
North Carolinians do not have a voice in redistricting. For more than four decades, election maps have been drawn by the party in power, behind closed doors to keep themselves in power. Districts are drawn to favor candidates from the majority party and not to reflect the population of the State
“It is time for the North Carolina General Assembly to respect the views of 70% of North Carolinians and give North Carolina a fair and impartial redistricting process,” state Charles Meeker, former Mayor of Raleigh.

Joining Mayors Meeker and Vinroot in calling for change are former Governors Hunt and Martin, 63 members of the NC house, and 215 municipal leaders across the state.

 

 

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Posted by on May 26, 2015

SUPREME COURT TO HEAR CHALLENGE TO TEXAS REDISTRICTING PLAN

Washington Post, May 26, 2015

 
The Supreme Court said Tuesday that it will decide an important “one person, one vote” case next term to determine whether states should consider total population — or only eligible voters — when drawing roughly equal legislative districts.

A shift from using total population would have an enormous impact in states with large immigrant populations, where greater numbers are children or noncitizens. It would shift power from urban areas to more rural districts.

The Supreme Court in 1964 ruled that states must divide electoral districts population-wise so that political power is equally shared. But it did not specify whether total population or eligible voters was the standard to use.

The case comes from two people who are challenging Texas’s redistricting, which like most states is based on total population. The state had told the justices that there was no reason to take up the challenge.

“Plaintiffs cite no case in which a court has accepted their claim that the Constitution compels states to apportion their legislative districts based on voter population as opposed to or in addition to total population,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in the state’s response.

“And multiple precedents from this court confirm that total population is a permissible apportionment base under the Equal Protection Clause.”

The challenge is brought by the Project on Fair Representation, an organization headed by Edward Blum, which has also brought challenges based on racial and ethnic classifications to affirmative action in higher education and to the federal Voting Rights Act.

Their petition to the court said that while Texas’s Senate districts are roughly equal in population, they vary widely in the number of eligible voters.

“This case presents the court with the opportunity to restore the important principle of one-person, one-vote to the citizens of Texas and elsewhere,” Blum said in a statement.

The case is Evenwel v. Abbott and will be heard in the term that starts in October.

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Posted by on Apr 20, 2015

Supreme Court Revives Challenge to North Carolina Redistricting

FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Civil rights groups say illegally redrawn election map dilutes influence of black voters
By JESS BRAVIN
Updated April 20, 2015 3:21 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday revived a challenge to North Carolina’s election map, which civil rights groups complain illegally concentrates black voters in a handful of districts.

The North Carolina Supreme Court in December had upheld a redistricting map set by the Republican-controlled state legislature following the 2010 census. But in March, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated a similar lawsuit against Alabama’s map, which also had previously passed muster with a lower court.

Monday’s decision, issued without comment, ordered the North Carolina high court to reconsider its ruling in light of the March opinion. The Alabama ruling required a lower court to consider that packing more minority voters in a district than necessary to give them political strength could violate the Voting Rights Act, by reducing the number of districts where minority voters could wield influence.

Lawyers challenging the map said they have filed a motion asking the North Carolina Supreme Court to expedite its review. “Plaintiffs originally filed this case in 2011. They are entitled to a final determination that their rights have been violated and a prompt redrawing of non-discriminatory, geographically compact districts in time for the 2016 elections,” said Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a Durham, N.C., group representing the challengers

The North Carolina attorney general’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Following the 2010 census, the North Carolina Legislature redrew congressional and legislative lines to concentrate African-Americans in a handful of districts, under the theory the Voting Rights Act favored the creation of majority black districts.

The prior state map had no majority black congressional or state Senate districts; the 2011 map had two of the former and nine of the latter. In the state House, majority-black seats increased to 23 from 10.

Because blacks have voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, concentrating them in fewer districts had the effect of increasing the proportion of Republican-leaning white voters in other districts. The new map didn’t radically alter the state’s political balance in the 2014 elections, as Republicans picked up one seat in the 50-member Senate and lost three in the 120-member House. Democrats lost one seat in North Carolina’s congressional delegation, where Republicans now hold a 10-3 edge.

Nevertheless, minority voters, North Carolina NAACP branches and other groups sued to block the new map, contending it illegally diluted black voting strength. Since African-Americans already were able to elect their “candidates of choice” in majority-white districts—apparently through political coalitions with the minority of whites who favored Democrats—“packing” blacks into specific districts violates the Voting Rights Act, the lawsuit argued.

Statewide, North Carolina has grown increasingly competitive, seeing a tight race last year that unseated a Democratic senator and voting for President Barack Obama in 2008 but his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, in 2012.

Although there are some differences in the legal provisions involved in the Alabama and North Carolina cases, the challengers cited the Alabama opinion in appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The justices split 5-4 in the Alabama case, with maverick conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the four liberal justices to revive the case.

The March opinion, by Justice Stephen Breyer, held the Voting Rights Act doesn’t prescribe “a particular numerical minority percentage” in each district. Instead, the court said, it requires the state “to maintain a minority’s ability to elect a preferred candidate of choice,” which potentially doesn’t require a supermajority or even majority of minority-group voters.

Write to Jess Bravin at jess.bravin@wsj

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Posted by on Apr 20, 2015

US Supreme Court action a clear sign North Carolina needs a new redistricting process

Today’s US Supreme Court action, sending the lawsuit over North Carolina’s 2011redistricting back to the

North Carolina Supreme Court, sends a clear signal that North Carolina needs a new redistricting process.

There have been about thirty judicial interventions in North Carolina redistricting in the last 35 years.

“It is time for North Carolina to have a nonpartisan system that creates fair,impartial districts. It is also

time for North Carolina to have a redistricting system that does not require court involvement, special

sessions of the North Carolina General Assembly, and elections to be delayed. All of these have

happened in the last three decades“ said Jane Pinsky, Driector of the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying

and Government Reform.

Pinsky continued“ We urge the North Carolina General Assembly to take action on legislation that would create a

nonpartisan system like the one in House Bill 92, Nonpartisan Redistricting, based on legislation passed by

the North Carolina House in the past. It is time to end this long saga and move forward.”

-30-
The North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform has been working to create a fair

impartial nonpartisan redistricting system in North Carolina since 2006. The Coalition works to make

government more open, accessible, transparent and accountable to the people of North Carolina.

907 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27615

919-833-0092

www.endgerrymanderingnow.org

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Posted by on Mar 31, 2015

Supreme Court asks Virginia panel to reexamine redistricting decision

The Washington Post

By Jenna Portnoy and Robert Barnes

March 30 at 5:00 PM
The Supreme Court on Monday told a federal judicial panel in Virginia to take another look at its decision that lawmakers improperly packed minority voters into one congressional district.

The court sent the case back to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia without comment, following its decision last week in a similar case from Alabama.

In the Alabama case, the court ruled 5 to 4 that lower court judges should look more closely at whether lawmakers made race the predominate factor in drawing new district lines after the 2010 census.

[Supreme Court hands win to opponents of Alabama redistricting plan]

In Virginia, a three-judge federal district court panel ruled in October that the Virginia General Assembly must draw new congressional maps, because the current plan concentrates African American voters into a single district at the expense of their influence elsewhere.

Both the Virginia and Alabama cases hinge on when it’s legal to use race to draw district boundaries.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs in the Virginia case, along with several independent experts, said it is unlikely that the federal court in Virginia will make a different ruling this time around.

“I wouldn’t expect anything to change,” said Marc Elias, who represented two voters from the district where the redistricting in question took place.

Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who runs a blog about redistricting, said nothing in the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Alabama case gives the Virginia court any reason to alter its original ruling.

“Alabama strengthened the trial courts’ decision against Virginia,” he said. “Essentially the accusations against Virginia that the trial court found to be true are really, really, really close to the accusations against Alabama.”

But Michael A. Carvin, who is representing former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Virginia’s Republican congressional delegation in their appeal of the lower court’s decision, drew the opposite conclusion. “We’ve always been confident in our defense and there’s no reason to think differently now,” Carvin said.

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