A federal three-judge panel decided on Monday that the state will not have to hold elections in about three months, but they also put a timeline on the state for when the redistricting must be completed, with an odd cutoff date.
The state is expected to redraw the legislative districts that were ruled unconstitutional racial gerrymanders by Sep. 1, which wouldn’t be odd if the state were not already planning on coming back to Raleigh Sep. 6 for that specific purpose.
The court believes that there is such an important reason to have the districts hurriedly finished that less than a week makes a difference when elections aren’t being held again until 2018.
At the hearing in Greensboro last week, attorneys for legislative leaders asked the judges to give lawmakers until Nov. 15 to approve new maps but that was not good enough for the panel that is stacked with former President Barack Obama’s appointees, specifically U.S. District Judges Catherine Eagles and James Wynn; though the final ruling was unanimous.
During the hearing the judges took issue with the lack of expediency lawmakers took in producing new maps.
“You don’t seem serious,” Eagles said at the hearing in the Greensboro federal courthouse.
Joining Eagles and Wynn on the panel was Judge Thomas Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee.
The three agreed with the plaintiffs in the case that the state had plenty of time to enact a new redistricting plan and that “constitutionally adequate districts should be enacted as quickly as possible to protect the rights of North Carolina citizens and to minimize any chilling effect on political participation attributable to the continued absence of a districting plan in the face of a finding of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.”
But how a week will make a difference when there are not even primaries for nearly a year was left unexplained by the judges.
The only logical conclusion is that forcing the deadline five days back from when the state already planned on taking up the redistricting is a political decision, meant to embarrass and flex authority over the state.
It is the court saying, “we can make you jump through hoops” and it makes the court look bad.
It comes off as petty when the court could have just as easily put in any other deadline.
Legislative leaders have not issued statements on whether or not they will stick with their original plan, or acquiesce to the demands of the panel and meet earlier to pass their updated maps.
Originally 28 legislative districts were ruled unconstitutional by the panel, and to “fix” those districts will require that most, if not all, of the legislative districts be adjusted.
Whether the state will comply with the order or continue at its own pre-arranged pace remains to be seen, but should the state not comply the courts could implement their own maps, likely taken from the plaintiffs in the case.