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Supreme Court Rejects Special Master's Redrawn Districts For Mecklenburg, Wake Counties

U.S. Supreme Court building

Both sides are declaring victory while many others are left scratching their heads after the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in Tuesday on two North Carolina gerrymandering cases.

The first decision came down Tuesday afternoon.

Comprised of just 35 words, the order was as decisive as it was brief.

A motion to speed up an appeal of the state's congressional maps was denied.

All 13 of North Carolina's congressional districts have been ruled illegal partisan gerrymanders by a lower federal panel. All were ordered to be redrawn by that court. Now, it is all but certain that congressional map will be used in this year's election.

It was a split decision, with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor stating they would have granted the motion.

The other case deals with racial gerrymandering and state legislative districts. The U.S. Supreme Court late Tuesday rejected some but not all of the North Carolina legislative districts that federal judges redrew for this year's elections. The rejected districts are in Wake and Mecklenburg counties, to the disappointment of Christy Clark.

“I was expecting to go to the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections and file as a candidate in District 98 in Northern Mecklenburg County.”

Clark, in her first run for office, is a Democrat looking to unseat Republican John Bradford in the North Carolina House.

But the Supreme Court also issued a curious partial stay in what's known as the Covington case.

Last summer the high court affirmed that 28 of North Carolina's 170 state legislative districts were racial gerrymanders. The General Assembly then eventually redrew those districts, and changed a number of others as well.

Unhappy with the Republican-led effort in this remedial phase of the case, the original lower court hired an independent expert, a so-called special master to redraw a handful of districts yet again. The court eventually went with that map.

On Tuesday, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court said they too liked the special master's map, except for in Wake and Mecklenburg counties.

Still, that was enough for Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, to state that “Much of North Carolina's sovereignty has been restored.”

Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, also declared victory. She represents plaintiffs in the case.

Above is the 2017 redistricting plan for Mecklenburg County, and the redrawn map by a Stanford University law professor.

“Finally, after years of litigation, North Carolinians will be able to elect their state legislators from districts that do not discriminate against voters based on their race."

Would-be candidate Christy Clark has a very different response.

“When I saw this news about the Supreme Court come through, I was shocked and disappointed. I feel like at the 11th hour is a bad time for a change to be made.”

This partial stay means the districts in Mecklenburg and Wake Counties will be the boundaries drawn by the General Assembly last August.  

Clark doesn’t know if she still lives in the district she wants to represent.

“There is a possibility I might still be in the district, looking back at the August, 2017 maps that were enacted. But I'm waiting to see how this settles down and I'll know more in the morning.”

Or so she hopes.

This too was a split decision with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito saying they would have granted the stay statewide. Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor would have denied the stay entirely. 

Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.