A federal court panel ruled late Friday that two of North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts were racially gerrymandered and must be redrawn within two weeks, sparking uncertainty about whether the March primary elections can proceed as planned.
An order from a three-judge panel bars elections in North Carolina’s 1st and 12th congressional districts until new maps are approved.
Challengers of North Carolina’s 2011 redistricting plan quickly praised the ruling, while legislators who helped design the maps said they were disappointed and promised a quick appeal.
“This ruling by all three judges is a vindication of our challenge to the General Assembly of North Carolina writing racially biased ‘apartheid’ voting districts to disenfranchise the power of the African-American vote,” said the Rev. William Barber, president of North Carolina’s NAACP chapter.
The ruling comes more than two years after David Harris, a registered voter in Durham County, filed a lawsuit with Christine Bowser and Samuel Love, both registered voters from Mecklenburg County, seeking an invalidation of the two districts, which are represented by Democrats — G.K. Butterfield in District 1 and Alma Adams in District 12.
Mel Watt was the congressman for District 12 when the maps were redrawn. His district was the most litigated in the country during the 1990s, and the subject of four cases that went to the U.S. Supreme Court. Redistricting lawsuits delayed North Carolina elections in 1998 and 2002.