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USU.S. battle over partisan electoral maps to face major test in North Carolina

13:40  12 july  2019
13:40  12 july  2019 Source:   reuters.com

North Carolina partisan gerrymandering state trial begins

North Carolina partisan gerrymandering state trial begins A North Carolina state court trial on whether legislative districts are illegal partisan gerrymanders starts just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it wasn't the purview of federal courts to decide if boundaries are politically unfair. A three-judge panel prepared for two weeks of arguments and testimony beginning Monday. Common Cause, the state Democratic Party and voters challenged House and Senate maps that Republicans drew in 2017. They say the lines maximized GOP advantage beyond what political geography can explain and want new boundaries for 2020.

The first major test of that strategy begins on Monday in Raleigh, North Carolina , where a three-judge panel will hear a civil trial to decide whether the The North Carolina case is expected eventually to reach the state’ s Supreme Court. The court has six Democratic justices and only one Republican

The North Carolina lawsuit involves only the district lines for the state' s legislature. Common Cause challenged North Carolina ' s U . S . congressional But a ruling from the state Supreme Court that state legislative districts cannot be gerrymandered for partisan gain under the North Carolina constitution

U.S. battle over partisan electoral maps to face major test in North Carolina© Copyright 2019, dpa (www.dpa.de). Alle Rechte vorbehalten 02 July 2019, Lower Saxony, Osnabrück: There's a microphone on a table in a courtroom at the county court. A 66-year-old boy has to answer for sexual abuse of orphans in West Africa in 41 cases between January 2016 and February 2018. Photo: Friso Gentsch/dpa (Photo by Friso Gentsch/picture alliance via Getty Images)

(Reuters) - After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled federal judges cannot curb partisan gerrymandering, reform advocates vowed to take their fight to state courts that retain the power to police the practice of drawing electoral lines for political advantage.

Hofeller files can be used in NC gerrymandering trial, judges rule in win for Democrats

Hofeller files can be used in NC gerrymandering trial, judges rule in win for Democrats RALEIGH, N.C. – The formerly secret files of the man who drew North Carolina's political districts before he died can be used in court by the people challenging his maps for being unconstitutional gerrymanders. A trial in the gerrymandering case is scheduled to begin on Monday, so the Friday afternoon decision by the trio of judges who will be hearing the case came at nearly the last minute. There had been a question of whether the introduction of the files — which likely contain thousands of pages of documents — could postpone the trial, but the judges did not do so Friday.

The first major test of that strategy begins on Monday in Raleigh, North Carolina , where a three-judge panel will hear a civil trial to In a similar case last year, the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court threw out Republican-drawn congressional maps , finding that partisan gerrymandering violated the state

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The first major test of that strategy begins on Monday in Raleigh, North Carolina, where a three-judge panel will hear a civil trial to decide whether the state's legislative districts - designed by Republican lawmakers to give their party an edge - violate the state constitution.

If the plaintiffs succeed in overturning the state's maps, it would likely boost Democrats' chances of capturing the Republican-controlled state legislature in 2020 - and with it, the opportunity to draw new congressional districts in 2021 after the U.S. census is completed.

A court victory for the plaintiffs also could bolster parallel legal efforts in other states, experts said.

Court: GOP mapmaker's files allowed in gerrymandering trial

Court: GOP mapmaker's files allowed in gerrymandering trial RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A few dozen computer files recovered from the home of a deceased Republican redistricting consultant can be offered as evidence in next week's partisan gerrymandering trial in North Carolina, state judges ruled on Friday. The three-judge panel presiding over the trial that starts Monday sided with the election reform group Common Cause, the North Carolina Democratic Party and registered Democratic voters who are suing Republican lawmakers and challenging state House and Senate boundaries drawn in 2017.

North Carolina has a new congressional map for 2020. The map is likely to add two seats for Democrats in 2020, but it probably won’t end controversy over partisan gerrymandering in the state.

Legal battle over U . S . gerrymandering shifts to North Carolina as trial begins 2019-07-15 2019-07-15. Confederate statues vandalized in North Carolina on Two Confederate statues in North Carolina were doused with paint in the early hours of the Fourth of July. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"

"It's something that people around the country are going to be watching," said Michael Li, a lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School who studies redistricting.

Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the North Carolina version includes a provision guaranteeing "free" elections. The lawsuit filed in state Superior Court by Common Cause North Carolina, a good-government advocacy group, and the state Democratic Party claims the current legislative map runs afoul of that principle.

In a similar case last year, the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court threw out Republican-drawn congressional maps, finding that partisan gerrymandering violated the state constitution's free elections clause. Under new maps, Democrats captured half of the state's 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, compared with only five in 2016.

While state court rulings are not binding in other states, judges will often consider similar cases in crafting their decisions, Li said.

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In a major blow to election reformers, the U . S . Supreme Court on Thursday rejected efforts to rein in electoral map manipulation by politicians aimed at entrenching one party in power, a practice known as partisan gerrymandering that critics have said warps democracy. The justices, in a landmark 5-4.

The U . S . Supreme Court is due to rule by the end of June on the contentious practice called partisan gerrymandering in which state legislators draw electoral maps designed to entrench their own party in power, but states in growing numbers already are taking action to rein in the politicians.

The North Carolina case is expected eventually to reach the state's Supreme Court. The court has six judges appointed by a Democratic governor and only one Republican-appointed judge, increasing the odds that a gerrymandering challenge will succeed, according to legal experts.

EXTREME GERRYMANDERING

Every decade, the boundaries of U.S. House and state legislative districts are redrawn to reflect population changes in census data; in most states, the party in power controls redistricting.

Typically, gerrymandering concentrates one party's voters in a small number of districts while diluting them everywhere else, a practice known as "packing and cracking."

The North Carolina lawsuit involves only the district lines for the state's legislature. Common Cause challenged North Carolina's U.S. congressional districts in a separate federal case that eventually led to the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling two weeks ago.

But a ruling from the state Supreme Court that state legislative districts cannot be gerrymandered for partisan gain under the North Carolina constitution would likely apply equally to U.S. congressional lines, which are also drawn by state lawmakers.

Greg Murphy wins GOP primary runoff for North Carolina House seat

Greg Murphy wins GOP primary runoff for North Carolina House seat Greg Murphy edged out Joan Perry in the Republican primary runoff in North Carolina's 3rd congressional district on Tuesday, securing his spot in the special election to replace the late Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.). With 56 percent of precincts reporting, The Associated Press called the race for Murphy, who carried more than 63 percent of the vote to Perry's more than 36 percent.Murphy's win means that he will face off against Democrat Allen Thomas, Libertarian Tim Harris and Constitution Party candidate Greg Holt in a special election on Sept. 10.

The current congressional map is considered by experts one of the most extreme examples of gerrymandering in the country. Republicans won nine of the state's 13 seats in 2018 and Democrats won three, with one race's results thrown out due to fraud allegations, even as Republicans won the statewide popular vote by only two percentage points.

Similarly, Republicans won majorities in both the state House of Representatives and the state Senate in 2018 - despite losing the statewide popular vote.

"It doesn't provide everyone with an equal vote," said Bob Phillips, the executive director of Common Cause North Carolina. "It really is an inability of citizens to hold their elected officials accountable."

Pat Ryan, a spokesman for the state Senate's top Republican, Phil Berger, acknowledged that lawmakers took partisanship into consideration when drawing the state legislative map. But he said the constitution already imposed strict rules that limit the impact, including restrictions on dividing populous counties.

"We're subject to one of, if not the, strictest set of rules governing how those maps can be drawn," he said. He also said even nonpartisan maps tend to favor Republicans, given how Democratic voters tend to cluster in urban areas.

The trial is expected to last up to two weeks. The judges are likely to issue their verdict weeks or months after the proceeding ends, which will almost certainly be followed by an appeal to the state Supreme Court from the losing side.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax in New York; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis)

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