The best email received today on the case involving the Republican
voter suppression plan redistricting scheme.
The political law practice group of Bailey & Dixon, LLP made the following observations regarding the consolidated redistricting lawsuits (Dickson v. Rucho and NAACP v State) in Wake County Superior Court today:
The 3-judge panel in Superior Court voted to let the NC’s two big redistricting lawsuits go forward on most of their causes of action.
The State had moved to dismiss all claims in the cases of Dickson v. Rucho and NAACP v State. The judges dismissed the motion with regard to most of the claims.
The Dickson suit was brought by a collection individual plaintiffs, many of them current and former Democratic officeholders. Their counsel is Poyner & Spruill, lead by Eddie Speas. The NAACP suit was brought by several nonprofit groups, including Democracy North Carolina and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Their attorneys include Anita Earls, Adam Stein, and Irv Joyner.
Together, the two lawsuits alleged 37 claims. Of those, the court dismissed 15 and allowed 22 to proceed. But the 37 claims are better understood if grouped into a few big categories.
The court dismissed the following categories of claims:
1990s Statutes Against Precinct Splitting. The court dismissed claims in both suits that splitting precincts violated two statutes enacted in the 1990s to prohibit splitting precincts in the drawing of legislative and congressional districts. Those statutes, GS 120-2.2 and 163-261.2, were denied Voting Rights Act preclearance back then, but the plaintiffs argued that the statutes are still good law in the 60 counties not covered by Section 5 of the VRA. The judges didn’t buy that.
The “Good of the Whole.” The court dismissed claims in both suits that unnecessarily splitting precincts, municipalities, and other communities of interest were violations of Article I, Sec. 2 of the State Constitution. That provision says “all government of right originates from the people, is founded on their will only, and is instituted for the good of the whole.” The NAACP suit alleged that the unnecessary splitting and the non-compact districts were the product of excessive partisanship. The Dickson suit did not frame its “good of the whole” argument in quite that way. Dickson specifically said removing Asheville from the 11th congressional district was a “good of the whole” violation. But regardless of how it was framed, the “good of the whole” argument was another one the judges didn’t buy.
Arbitrary and Capricious. The court dismissed claims in Dickson that splitting precincts, towns, etc., violated Article I, Section 19 of the State Constitution by depriving plaintiffs of their rights without due process (in State constitutional terms without “the law of the land”) and because such splits were done arbitrarily and capriciously without bearing a rational relationship to a valid objective. However, the judges let stand another set of claims in Dickson that sounds similar. Those claims are discussed below.
The court did not dismiss – that is, allowed to go forward – the following categories of claims:
Racial Classifications. The court let stand claims in both suits that using race without justification to divide voters in districts and split precincts violated provisions of both US and State Constitutions. The NAACP suit treated this more nearly as a Shaw v. Reno claim than did Dickson. In NAACP, the racial classifications were pled as a violation of the Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution and of Article I, Sec. 19, of the State Constitution and Shaw is mentioned. Dickson cites the 14th Amendment and Article I, Sec. 19, as the violated provisions without highlighting either Equal Protection or Shaw in the same way. The judges spared the racial classification claims in both lawsuits, letting them go forward. They affect both legislative and congressional plans.
Whole County Provision. The court let stand claims in both suits that the number of counties split in the House and Senate plans violated the provisions of Article II, Secs. 3 and 5, of the State Constitution saying that counties cannot be divided in the drawing of House and Senate districts. Those provisions were interpreted by the State Supreme Court in its 2002 Stephenson v. Bartlett decision. In oral argument, the plaintiffs argued that the enacted plans split more counties –without compelling state interest –than alternative plans, and therefore violated the Whole County Provision. The State argued that Stephenson measured compliance not by the number of split counties but by the number of groupings of counties. That will probably be a key argument going forward in the case. This affects only legislative, not congressional, plans.
Abridging the Right to Vote. The court let stand two claims (appearing only in Dickson) that excessive splitting of precincts in House and Senate plans abridges the right of people over 18 to vote without compelling reasons narrowly tailored. The State constitutional provisions cited are Article VI, Sec. 1, (Right to Vote) and Article I, Sec. 19 (no denial of rights without the Law of the Land). These are the claims mentioned above as similar to claims that the court dismissed. In Dickson they are claims only against the Senate and House plans, not the congressional.
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