The legislative districts drawn in 2011 for the North Carolina General Assembly are unconstitutional according to a federal court ruling.
A three judge panel issued the ruling on Thursday afternoon. The panel called the districts “racially gerrymandered in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.” In the North Carolina General Assembly, there are 120 state House districts and 50 state Senate districts. Thursday’s ruling found that 28 of those districts were racially gerrymandered.
Two districts that raised eyebrows on the court were House District 7 and House District 25. The two districts divide Franklin and Nash Counties. House District 25 has a black voting age population of 16.05 percent while House District 7 has a black voting age population of 50.67 percent. House District 7 divides 7 municipalities. The court explains:
“Most notably, 61.78% of the population of Rocky Mount was assigned to House District 7, but the lines were drawn such that the district managed to capture almost all of the city’s voting-age AfricanAmerican population in Nash County: 96.16%.”
This is what the counties and districts look like on a map.
Despite the ruling, North Carolina’s November election will proceed as scheduled. According to the decision, there is not enough time to go through the entire process of redistricting, judicial review, and primaries before November. The court explains:
“We decline to order injunctive relief to require the state of North Carolina to postpone its 2016 general elections, as we believe such a remedy would cause significant and undue disruption to North Carolina’s election process and create considerable confusion, inconvenience, and uncertainty among voters, candidates, and election officials. Instead, like other courts confronted with similarly difficult circumstances, we will allow the November 2016 elections to proceed as scheduled under the challenged plans, despite their unconstitutionality.”
The General Assembly will be required to redraw the districts in their next session, which will occur after the 2016 election.
The decision comes less than two weeks after the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law. That ruling, unlike Thursday’s decision, will directly impact November’s election.
Advocacy group Progress NC Action executive director Gerrick Brenner issued the following statement on the court’s decision:
“This is only the latest example of North Carolina Republicans illegally disenfranchising African-American voters through gerrymandering and voter suppression. Politicians in Raleigh have waged an all-out war on democracy in order to maintain their stranglehold on state government and have spent millions of taxpayer dollars to defend their unconstitutional laws. These racist attempts at voter suppression must end.”