Hearing on NC redistricting set for later this month

Lower court decision in Covington v. State will lay out timeline for lawmakers after hearing set for July 27

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
State Senators Dan Soucek

GREENSBORO — What may be the final court decision in a case that will decide if North Carolina state lawmakers are required to urgently redraw voting district lines and hold a special election before November 2018 will be announced later this month.

On Thursday, the U.S. District Court in Greensboro set a hearing date for July 27 at 10 a.m. at the same courthouse that saw a three-judge panel conclude that Republican-drawn legislative districts were racially gerrymandered.

Lawmakers quickly appealed the original verdict, insisting they never used race as a criteria while drawing the maps.

However, in early June the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the lower court’s ruling while also asking the U.S. District Court to reconsider their call to urgently redraw the maps and hold a special election. The top U.S. court indicated that the lower court panel did not “adequately grapple” with the consequences of a special election that would result in state House and Senate members serving less than two-year terms.

The Supreme Court’s decision kicked the verdict on the timeline back down to the lower court, which will hear arguments from both parties before offering their final remedy on “whether a special election should be held; if so, upon what schedule; and if not, what specific deadline the Court should set for legislative action on redistricting.”

Before adjourning the regular legislative session last month, Republican legislative leaders appointed members to the committee that would be instrumental in redrawing district lines, signaling an intention to comply with the impending court order.

However, the next order on July 27 could still be elevated back up to the U.S. Supreme Court if lawmakers choose to appeal again.