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7 Feb, 2016 00:28

‘Racial gerrymandering’: Court orders 2 N. Carolina congressional district maps to be redrawn

‘Racial gerrymandering’: Court orders 2 N. Carolina congressional district maps to be redrawn

A US appeals court has ruled that two districts in North Carolina will have to be redrawn as they were racially gerrymandered in 2011. The move sparked uncertainty about whether March primaries would take place as planned.

Although the state’s congressional primaries are scheduled for March 15, no votes can be cast in the 1st and 12th districts, both of which are majority black, until new maps have been redrawn and approved.

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Roger Gregory described the redrawing of the two districts by the Republican-led legislature in 2011 as “unconstitutional” on Friday and they must be redrawn by February 19.

“The record is replete with statements indicating that race was the legislature’s paramount concern,” and that “individuals… whose constitutional rights have been injured by improper racial gerrymandering have suffered significant harm,” the ruling states.

READ MORE: Alabama’s legislative districts are ‘racially gerrymandered,' Supreme Court rules

Senator Bob Rucho and Representative David Lewis, chairmen of the General Assembly redistricting committees, told The News & Observer that the findings were disruptive and they will be appealing the decision.

“Should this decision be allowed to stand, North Carolina voters will no longer know how or when they will get to cast their primary ballots in the presidential, gubernatorial, congressional and legislative elections,” the said in a joint statement.

“This decision could do far more to disenfranchise North Carolina voters than anything alleged in this case,” the statement reads.

Both districts are currently represented by Democrats - G.K. Butterfield in the 1st and Alma Adams in the 12th - and have been the subject of a lawsuit lodged to invalidate the redrawn boundary lines for over two years.

READ MORE: Supreme Court strikes blow to Arizona GOP’s gerrymandering dreams

Rev. William Barber, president of North Carolina’s NAACP chapter, described the ruling as a “vindication” of these legal challenges and the “racially biased ‘apartheid’ voting districts” drawn up to “disenfranchise the power of the African-American vote.”

The 1st district, which is mostly in the northeastern part of the state, runs to 1,319 miles along its perimeter, taking in five whole counties but touching on 19 others and is described as being "akin to a Rorschach inkblot."

The 12th district runs 120 miles in length and is 20 miles across at its widest but averages "only only a few miles wide" along most of it.