Court strikes down NCGA’s attempt to overhaul Greensboro elections

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An attempt by state Sen. Trudy Wade (left) to overhaul Greensboro elections has been declared unconstitutional.

The city of Greensboro’s system of electing city council members will remain unchanged with a federal judge’s ruling today that an effort by state Sen. Trudy Wade to upend the system violates the Constitutional requirement that the votes of all citizens have equal weight.

Judge Catherine Eagles compared the effort to redraw the city of Greensboro’s election system to a previous attempt by the state General Assembly to redraw the Wake County School Board districts.

“In both cases, the North Carolina legislature redrew districts for a local government entity using a plan with a maximum population deviation between eight and ten percent,” Eagles wrote. “In both cases, the legislature redistricted the local entities through a ‘truncated’ legislative process without soliciting input from the affected parties or the local delegations. In both cases, there was a pattern of overpopulation in Democratic-leaning districts and underpopulation in Republican-leaning districts. In both cases, credible computer simulation evidence showed that the partisan benefits from the redistricting were ‘completely outside the range of outcomes that are possible under a nonpartisan process that creates equally populated districts’ and follows traditional criteria.

“This is not a case where it is difficult to discern legislative motivation,” Eagles continued. “As in [Raleigh Wake Citizens Association], all of the credible evidence points in one direction: a ‘skewed, unequal redistricting’ intentionally designed to create a partisan advantage by increasing the weight of votes of Republican-leaning voters and decreasing the weight of votes of Democratic-leaning voters. This evidence is unchallenged and uncontroverted. On this record, as in RWCA, the evidence compels a decision for the plaintiffs: The districting plan in the Act violates the equal protection rights of the plaintiffs and all Greensboro voters.”

Allison Riggs, who argued the case for the citizen plaintiffs who opposed Sen. Wade’s redistricting scheme, applauded the ruling.

“We are pleased that the court recognized the wrong that would have been done to the city of Greensboro and its residents if this redistricting scheme were allowed to go into effect,” she said. “We can debate policies and practices, but there are certain rights that should never be denied to anyone in America. One of those is the right to everyone’s vote have the same weight.”

Eagles noted that Wade, as the primary legislative sponsor of the redistricting law, invoked legislative privilege and refused to testify, and that the legislative leaders and attorney general declined the opportunity to defend the law in court.

“The appropriate remedy is to enjoin enforcement of the Act and to preserve the City’s preexisting election system unless and until it is lawfully changed,” Eagles wrote.