UPDATE: By 5 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Feb. 23, four appeals were filed in the North Carolina Supreme Court: Republican state lawmakers appealed the congressional map; the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters and the Harper plaintiffs appealed the state Senate map and the Common Cause plaintiffs appealed both the state House and Senate maps. Later that evening, the North Carolina Supreme Court rejected all four appeals. The maps adopted by the trial court will go into effect and candidate filing will resume for May primary elections.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, Feb. 23, a three-judge panel of a North Carolina state trial court adopted new General Assembly and congressional maps following months of litigation. After the same three-judge panel rejected legal challenges to the maps in early January, the North Carolina Supreme Court struck down all three maps earlier this month for being partisan gerrymanders that violated the state constitution. The three-judge panel of the trial court was ordered to adopt remedial plans by noon today after parties in the litigation submitted proposals.
The panel, with the assistance of three special masters, adopted the state House and Senate remedial plans passed by the General Assembly. The court found that the General Assembly properly applied partisan data, considered Voting Rights Act requirements and followed neutral redistricting criteria in drawing the remedial legislative proposals. All three sets of plaintiffs had raised objections to the state Senate remedial plan, claiming it unfairly favors Republicans. In response to these critiques, the court stated that “to the extent there remains a partisan skew in the Remedial Senate Plan, that partisan skew is explained by the political geography of North Carolina.” Gov. Roy Cooper (D) released a statement soon after the decision, calling the state Senate map “blatantly unfair and unconstitutional.”
The court did not adopt the remedial congressional map passed by the General Assembly, which was more competitive and split fewer districts than the previously enacted map struck by the state Supreme Court. Even with modifications, the court held that the remedial map did not meet statistical standards for partisan fairness and “the partisan skew…is not explained by the political geography of North Carolina.” The court adopted an interim congressional proposal created by the special masters, who stated that the map “achieves the partisan fairness and ‘substantially equal voting power’ required by the Supreme Court of North Carolina without diluting votes under the Voting Rights Act while maintaining the number of county splits, retaining equal population, compactness, and contiguity, as well as respecting municipal boundaries.” The interim congressional map will only be used for the 2022 election cycle. Any appeal of the trial court’s order must be filed in the North Carolina Supreme Court by 5 p.m. EST today.