May primary ‘on go’

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, January 25, 2012

RALEIGH – The state’s election primary will remain on its traditional day in May.

On Friday of last week, a three-judge panel unanimously refused to delay North Carolina’s May primaries following challenges to the new redistricting plans passed last year by the General Assembly and approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ approved the State Senate, State House and Congressional maps in November – the first time in 30 years all three plans were pre-cleared in the initial 60-day review period.

There are a few minor changes to the maps in the Roanoke-Chowan area.

Gates County will become a part of NC Senate District 1, joining the counties to its east towards the coast. Gates will also be split in Congressional representation as it falls into both the 1st and 3rd Districts.

Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties are now part of a newly carved out NC Senate District 3.

NC House District 5 remains intact – Bertie, Gates, Hertford and a portion of Perquimans. House District 27 now consists only of Halifax and Northampton.

“These fair, legal and competitive maps once again withstood legal and political scrutiny,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, a Rockingham County Republican, in a press release. “(The) decision ensures our primary elections will continue as scheduled, and it lifts a cloud of uncertainty from the elections process. This is an important victory for the voters of North Carolina.”

The decision was also pleasing to NC House Representative David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican.

“This decision means that North Carolina voters and candidates have certainty over the 2012 elections,” Lewis said in a press statement.  “While litigation regarding redistricting will continue to be handled by the legal system, the decision ensures that no practical impact will be had upon the timing of candidate filing, primary elections, or the general election in November.  From the beginning of this process, we have endeavored to create maps that are fair and legal.  This decision protects the certainty our citizens deserve to have in our electoral process.”

General info

The ruling means the state primary will be held as scheduled on May 8. Filing begins at 12 noon on Feb. 13 for state senate, state house and US Congressional seats.

The judges’ decision denied a request made by several groups, including the NAACP, who challenged the redistricting lines and wanted to delay the primary until at least July 10.

“Our motion for injunctive relief was denied and with that ruling a price was placed on racism,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, President of the North Carolina NAACP. “The motion requested that the 2012 election cycle be delayed by 45 days in order to give the court time to hear the arguments of the case and render a ruling. The court ruled against delaying the upcoming elections after hearing from the state that the delay could cost six million dollars.”

He continued, “The NC NAACP believes that justice does not have a price tag. We believe these maps are unconstitutional and therefore it is fundamentally unfair and unreasonable to hold elections under these maps regardless of the cost to the state. Once the elections are conducted and the office holders in place, there would be no remedy to correct the harm to the people of North Carolina.

“We continue this fight because we know the maps adopted by the General Assembly are a scheme to increase the political power of the ultra-conservative leadership in the General Assembly at the expense of the power of the African American vote,” Barber added.

Barber said that 48 percent of African American voters are packed into just three U.S. House Districts; 52 percent of the African American voters are packed into just 27 of the 120 State House Districts and 47 percent of the African American voters are packed into just 10 State Senate Districts. He added those plans “unnecessarily and unjustifiably split 563 voting precincts throughout the state, usually along racial lines. Voters in the same neighborhood or same street are split into different political districts.”