Court ruling orders new legislative elections in 2017; State plans to appeal

Court ruling orders new legislative elections in 2017; State plans to appeal

Some members of North Carolina's General Assembly may have to run for office again in 2017, one year sooner than expected, if a ruling released Tuesday by a federal District Court is upheld. The court ruled state lawmakers must draw new redistricting maps for House and Senate districts ruled unconstitutional earlier just three months ago.

The court ruled in August that more than two dozen state House and Senate districts approved by the General Assembly in 2011 were unconstitutional because of racial gerrymandering.

At the time of the ruling, the court did not impose a deadline for lawmakers to redraw the lines and bring the districts into compliance. In the decision released Tuesday, the court orders Districts 5, 7, 12, 21, 24,29, 31, 32, 33, 38, 42, 43, 48, 57, 58, 60, 99, 102, and 107; and Senate Districts 4, 5, 14, 20, 21, 28, 32, 38 and 40 be redrawn by March 15, 2017.

None of those districts include New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender, Columbus or Bladen counties.

The decision also mandates the state must hold special primary and general elections in the fall of 2017, to elect new legislators in the districts ordered redrawn, and any other current district redrawn under the decision.

The primary would be scheduled in late August or early September, with the General Election to take place in early November, on dates to be determined by the General Assembly. Representatives and Senators winning in these elections would serve one-year terms.

The decision brought quick criticism from the leaders of the House and Senate Redistricting Committees, Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) and Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg). The two men released a joint statement:

"This politically-motivated decision, which would effectively undo the will of millions of North Carolinians just days after they cast their ballots, is a gross overreach that blatantly disregards the constitutional guarantee for voters to duly elect their legislators to biennial terms. We continue to believe the maps drawn by the General Assembly, pre-cleared by the Obama Justice Department and twice upheld by our state's elected Supreme Court are constitutional, and we will move quickly to appeal."

The email statement from Lewis and Rucho added that the maps approved in 2011 had pre-clearance from the United States Justice Department. The state has appealed the court's August ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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