The US Department of Justice has put its stamp of approval on new General Assembly and congressional for North Carolina — despite a computer glitch that left a handful of communities unassigned to a legislative district:
The U.S. Department of Justice gave preclearance to the Republican-crafted redistricting plan Tuesday evening, hours after Democrats raised concerns about a computer glitch that didn’t assign some voters to districts.
In a joint statement, House and Senate lawmakers applauded the move, saying it was the first time in 30 years that the feds gave the initial nod to the state House, state Senate and Congressional maps all at once in the 60 day review period.
The move now opens the door for Democrats and outside groups to challenge the maps. A number of legal challenges, particularly about how Republicans put minority voters in distircts, are expected.
Republicans announced the DOJ decision hours after disclosing to Democrats that a computer glitch caused about 2 percent of the state’s voting blocks to not get assigned a state House member and 1 percent to not get a Senate district.
The orphaned voters affected 52 House districts and 22 Senate districts. (The proposed Senate map is shown above left; the proposed House map is below left.)
Sen. Bob Rucho, a top Republican, said the lawmakers didn’t make the mistake but it came from legislative staff when they put the law into the computer. (Read the memo here.)
In a memorandum to Rucho, legislative staff blamed a “software code flaw” that was identified and corrected. A technical corrections bill is needed to fix the issue, legislative sources say, but it’s unclear whether lawmakers will take up the legislation Monday when they return for a special session.
At the Congressional level, only Harnett County was affected. In congressional districts 2 and 4, 420 blocks didn’t get assigned.
Democrats suggested the issue appeared to concentrate in areas where Republican lawmakers split precincts, a controversial practice that occurred more in the 2010 process than in 2000.
The party jumped on the news, calling it a failure of GOP leadership. “These maps were designed to target women legislators, divide long-standing community ties and ultimately, to resegregate North Carolina altogether,” said Democratic Party Chairman David Parker. “Time and again, Republicans have shown that they simply cannot be trusted to put the best interests of North Carolinians before their own partisan ambitions. Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for pushing this partisan boondoggle.”
Republican lawmakers, in trumpeting the preclearance news, said in a statement: “The Obama Justice Department’s stamp of approval on our redistricting plans confirms what we’ve said all along: these are fair and legal maps that give a strong voice to all voters. It also should silence the racially-charged rhetoric and put to rest the baseless claim that these maps were somehow discriminatory.
“Today’s historic decision by the Obama Justice Department, after thorough review by Attorney General Holder, proves that we followed the letter and intent of the law in protecting the voting rights of minorities.”
What is this going to mean for Moore County? As you can see from the maps above, we’ve been moved into the state Senate district of Republican Jerry Tillman of Randolph County, who serves as the Senate Majority Whip. Most of Moore County will remain in House District 52, represented by Republican Jamie Boles. The biggest change for us will be at the congressional level, where we will be moved from the Sixth District represented by Howard Coble to the Second represented by Renee Ellmers. This was a HUGE hurdle getting past Justice.
Barring a successful legal challenge to the redistricting plan, we will be voting in these new districts in 2012.