NC Redistricting Trial Recap

The following is a special update from All On The Line NC (Friday, January 7, 2022):

This week, January 3 through January 6,a 3-judge panel of the NC Superior Court heard a challenge to the enacted legislative and congressional maps from Plaintiffs Harper et al, Common Cause NC and the NC League of Conservation Voters. The defendants in the case(s) are the Republican chairs of the House and Senate Redistricting Committees, NCGA House and Senate leadership and members of the NC Board of Elections.

Team AOTL NC watched the whole trial and we break it all down for you in this video.

Here are the top lines:

  • Plaintiffs are challenging the maps on the basis that they violate the North Carolina constitution’s Free Elections, Freedom of Speech and Association, and Equal Protection clauses.
  • The Plaintiffs presented multiple expert witnesses who provided three different types of mathematical analysis (ensemble, Markov Chain Monte Carlo, and overlay) showing that these particular maps are extreme – and extremely durable – partisan gerrymanders that could not have been drawn using only the stated criteria. One analysis shows that they were more partisan than 99.9999% of maps drawn by a computer using an algorithm programmed with the enacted criteria.
  • The Defendants relied on claims that the partisan advantage seen in the enacted maps is due to North Carolina’s political geography, but the Plaintiffs’ expert witnesses’ analysis accounted for that and still found that the maps were extreme partisan outliers.
  • The Defendants did not provide any analysis to counter Plaintiffs’ claims regarding the congressional maps. The analysis provided by their expert witness on the state legislative maps was strongly rebutted by Plaintiffs’ experts, and plaintiffs’ counsel also called into question his credentials to conduct the analysis in the first place.
  • Plaintiffs also called Professor Chris Cooper, an expert on North Carolina politics, who testified about the decisions he saw being made and that they had clear partisan implications.
  • UNC History Professor James Leloudis testified that the enacted maps fit a historical pattern in North Carolina of the legislature enacting laws that appear neutral on their face but negatively impact the political power of Black citizens.
  • Tyler Daye, an organizer with Common Cause who monitored the redistricting process, testified that the process was overwhelming and transparency measures were inadequate.
  • UNC History Professor James Leloudis testified that the enacted maps fit a historical pattern in North Carolina of the legislature enacting laws that appear neutral on their face but negatively impact the political power of Black citizens.
  • Tyler Daye, an organizer with Common Cause who monitored the redistricting process, testified that the process was overwhelming and transparency measures were inadequate. He also testified that Chairs of the redistricting committee drew Republican-leaning districts first when drawing districts in the more Democratic-leaning parts of the state.
  • Rep. Zack Hawkins, a member of the redistricting committee, testified to raising concerns about transparency and about the treatment of Black communities in the maps – specifically in Pitt County, where the East Carolina University campus is split between two districts. He said he felt lied to by the committee chairs.
  • The Defense called Sen. Ralph Hise and Rep. Destin Hall to explain decisions they made in drawing the maps. Both witnesses gave general rationale for their choices and confirmed that they implemented no protocol beyond the honor system to ensure that no partisan or racial data was not used in drawing the maps.
  • Upon cross-examination, Rep. Hall admitted to using “concept maps” provided to him by an aide to facilitate his drawing of the NC House map. The concept maps have since been destroyed, and the aide no longer works at the General Assembly and so was not called to testify.

We expect a ruling from the 3-judge panel by Tuesday, Jan. 11. Appeals must be filed within 48 hours and will go straight to the NC Supreme Court.

You may have heard chatter about judges recusing themselves from this (and other) cases before the NC Supreme Court. The Court released a memo right before Christmas confirming that they will leave it up to individual justices as to whether to recuse themselves.

It’s shaping up to be an interesting few weeks in North Carolina redistricting – stay tuned, and don’t forget to join the meeting on Thursday!