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Weekly Primer: North Carolina May Have To Redraw Its House Map Before Midterms

Voting rights primer
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September 3, 2018 9:00 a.m.

North Carolina lawmakers may have to redraw their illegally gerrymandered U.S. House map before November’s midterms, after a panel of federal judges ruled Monday that it was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. State Republicans had even bragged about the partisan advantage that the map — drawn after courts threw out a previous map for being a racial gerrymander — had given it them. It’s not clear whether the court and the lawmakers will be able to come up with a system for redrawing the map on such a short timeline. The U.S. Supreme Court may also get involved to give the legislators relief from the lower court’s decision.

Meanwhile, it appears North Carolina Republicans are putting aside some of their anti-democracy antics, perhaps to help bolster their case that it’s too close to an election to make any changes to voting procedures. They dropped their appeal of a state court’s decision blocking a new GOP law that would have prevented a Republican candidate — feared by the GOP to be a spoiler in the state Supreme Court race — from having his party affiliation on the ballot. North Carolina Republicans had sought to prohibit Chris Anglin from claiming a GOP party ID because they believed the former Democrat had switched parties to draw Republican votes away from the GOP incumbent for the state Supreme Court seat.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled mostly in the Texas GOP legislature’s favor in a redistricting case earlier this year; now, a three-judge panel has ordered the state to redraw the one state House district found illegal by the Supreme Court in time for the 2020 election. The panel also ordered briefing on whether the racial gerrymander should put Texas back under the requirement for federal approval of new election policies — a requirement that no longer applied after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

Voting rights groups also got a win through a settlement agreement with Arizona election officials requiring the state to send voter registration forms to some 300,000 people who had interacted with various public agencies in the last year, and to start offering voter registration to those who come in contact with the agencies in the future.

On the heels of a failed attempt in Georgia to close 7 of the 9 election sites in a majority-black county, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did an analysis of the poll closures in the last half-decade and found that 1/3 of Georgia’s counties have fewer precincts now than in 2012. Thirty-nine of those 53 counties have a higher-than-average poverty rate for the state, and 30 counties have populations that are at least 25 percent African American. The bulk of those closures occurred after the SCOTUS decision gutting the Voting Rights Act provision that required Georgia to get federal approval for election procedure changes, including polling place closures. The state has also not been monitoring the closures, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Georgia also caught flack last week for a move to block all foreign traffic to its election website, which will make it much harder for overseas voters to register to vote. Georgia is defending the move as a security measure to prevent hackers, but tech experts say it will have little effect in stopping cyber intrusions, while placing a major burden on eligible voters seeking to register.

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