On February 5, a 3-judge U.S. District Court issued an opinion in Harris v McCrory, m.d., 1:13cv-949. It found that North Carolina’s U.S. House district boundaries for the First and Twelfth Districts violate the Fourteenth Amendment.
The decision gives the state two weeks to redraw the boundaries. The state is, of course, free to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to countermand the decision. If the U.S. Supreme Court declines to get involved at this stage, and if the legislature doesn’t redraw the boundaries, the 3-judge court will do so.
North Carolina’s primary for all office is on March 15. If the decision is not stayed, it seems inevitable that the state will need to hold a later, separate primary, for U.S. House. The First and Twelfth districts do not touch each other. The First district is in the northeast and touches Virginia, and the Twelfth District is in the western half of the state and touches South Carolina. The two districts are so irregular in shape, one or the other one of them touches every other U.S. House district except the 11th district. Thus, any new districts will change virtually all the districts.
The opinion was written by U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Roger L. Gregory, a Clinton appointee. U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn, an Obama, wrote separately to say he is in complete agreement with Judge Gregory. He wrote separately to express himself about the harm done by any type of gerrymandering. He mentioned that one of the Congressmembers who represents the 12th district said it was almost impossible for him to visit all the communities in his district, because it extends hundreds of miles in a very thin strip, with many tentacles. U.S. District Court Judge William L. Osteen, a Bush Jr. appointee, said he agrees that the First District is unconstitutional but that he feels the Twelfth District is constitutional.
If the decision stands, it has ballot access implications. If North Carolina has a later primary for U.S. House, the state will feel the need to extend the independent candidate petition deadline, at least for U.S. House. North Carolina’s independent candidate deadline is June 9. Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link. UPDATE: see this story.