US Defenders Report


21 Feb, 2016

 This month we want to report on the new North Carolina Congressional district map and its repercussions for the voters of North Carolina. On Friday, Feb 19, 2016 The State House gave final approval to new Congressional district boundaries drawn to satisfy a court order to correct two districts that a panel of federal judges considered racial gerrymanders. The approval came just a few hours before U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts declined to grant the state request to halt the panel order, meaning any elections in those districts are halted until new maps are approved. Also on Friday the State Senate approved moving the congressional primary election to June.

The state’s March 15 primary election will proceed as planned, but votes cast for congressional candidates will not be counted. The congressional primary, with new districts would be held on June 7.

 The state elections director acknowledged the potential for voter confusion but urged people to vote for their preferred congressional candidate in both elections. “Vote the whole ballot and let us worry about what will count” said Elections Director Kim Stratch in a statement issued after the bill passed both state chambers.

 In redrafting the congressional districts, Republicans decided on a plan they said does not consider race. Democrats said that was the wrong approach.

 “Race should still be considered in drawing district lines ”, Rep Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat, said Friday in a House meeting. “What the committee has done, they have taken race out of the equation totally and completely“ he said.

 Final approval to the plan was 65-43 along party lines. The same federal court panel would need to approve it before it could be used.

 As part of the plan to comply with the federal court’s ruling in the absence of a stay, the shift of the primaries includes having no runoffs in any races; the  candidate receiving the most votes would automatically win the primary and would not have to reach the 40% level that is now the law.

 A new filing period of March 16 to 25 will be opened for congressional candidates. Please bear in mind that some of these candidates have already spent sizable amounts of money preparing for election to a district that no longer exists.

 For example, Republican U.S. Rep George Holding of Raleigh, whose 13th District moves far to the West under the new maps, now plans to run in the 2nd Congressional district against fellow Republican Renee Ellmers, his campaign consultant said late Friday. A large chunk of Holding’s current district would join the 2nd Congressional district under the legislature’s plan which was developed under a federal court order. Holding’s home is in the 4th district in the new plan - about 6 miles outside the new 2nd district, but candidates aren’t legally required to live inside their district.

 Representative Ellmers spokesman said it’s unprecedented for Holding to challenge an incumbent from her own party in her own district. Holding’s new district will be called the 2nd, but most of the voters there are in the 13th district. Holding has no ties to the new 13th district.

 If the Supreme Court issues a stay of the lower court’s order, the current March primary election would continue with the previous districts - with Holding unopposed in his primary and Ellmers facing four opponents.

 Several other Congressional Reps are facing the possibility of running in a newly created district. Notable among them is Rep Alma Adams who represents the most racially gerrymandered Congressional district in the nation. The new map would shift the 12th Congressional district, which now snakes along the I-85 corridor from Charlotte to Greensboro to a district almost wholly focused in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. That is 90 miles from her Greensboro home and voter stronghold. That change will likely draw at lest two experienced candidates with strong Mecklenburg County ties to run against her.

 The only thing we can say for sure right now is that the next couple of months are going to be very chaotic.

Respectfully submitted,                                                                                                                                       John Burgess, State Commander