State House Speaker Tim Moore said Monday during a visit to Moore County that the Republican-controlled General Assembly will take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court, if need be, to defend its newly re-drawn legislative districts.
“We believe that our original maps that we passed in 2011 and our current maps that we passed (in August) following this mandate fully comply with the law,” he told the Moore County Republican Men’s Club during its monthly luncheon at the Country Club of North Carolina. “The new maps we adopted several months ago were based on what the federal courts told us we had to do. For example, ‘don’t take race into account.”
He also said later in his address that the legislature may revisit the voter ID law issue — the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck it down last year — through a possible state constitutional amendment.
Moore and the attorney representing the General Assembly contend that a Stanford University professor tapped by a panel of three federal judges did use race as a factor in offering up possible changes to some of the districts.
The General Assembly was forced to enact new legislative district maps in August after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ ruling last year that found 28 of the state legislative districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.
Moore took exception that the federal judges appointed a professor from California to review election districts in Cumberland, Guilford, Hoke, Mecklenburg, Wake, Bladen, Sampson and Wayne counties.
“The three-judge panel wasn’t sure we complied so they appointed what is called a ‘special master’ … to go in and look at our districts and say how they could have been drawn better. What it looks like to us, No. 1, there aren’t many changes, and the changes that he made, it almost appears that the map drawer took race into account.
“I don’t and we do not as leadership, believe that, No. 1, the court should be delegating its authority to decide a question of fact or question of law to some independent individual, to some professor from California, to draw the maps. What we believe they should do is say they think we did it wrong and show us where we did it wrong.”
Moore vowed that lawmakers are going to take this to the Supreme Court once the judicial panel makes its ruling.
“We’re going to fight it all the way up because at the end of the day, these are the maps of the people of North Carolina,” he said. “Those elected by the people of North Carolina have voted to draw these maps in compliance with the law as we understand it.”
Even after the General Assembly redrew the districts in August, those challenging the maps contend there are still problems with them.
The three-judge panel has yet to rule on those redrawn maps. The judges have laid out a schedule to make a ruling in time to meet the 2018 election schedule. The filing period opens in January.
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that districts used to elect General Assembly members in 2012, 2014 and 2016 included 28 unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. Those maps packed black voters, who often vote Democratic, into districts where their candidates already were likely to win. But by doing that, the courts found, the overall influence of black voters had been weakened in North Carolina.
The maps have helped Republicans in North Carolina, which is considered a swing state in national elections. Republicans control both chambers of the General Assembly, holding 35 of the 50 Senate seats and 75 of the 120 House seats, numbers that allow them to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes.
It is unclear what impact the changes proposed by the Stanford professor will have on the GOP’s majorities in the House and Senate.
Under the districts adopted by the General Assembly in August, Moore County would be moved from the current 29th District that also includes Randolph County and is represented by Sen. Jerry Tillman to the 25th district. That district would also include Richmond, Scotland and Anson counties. That district is represented by Republican Sen. Tom McInnis of Rockingham.
He spoke briefly before Moore Monday, saying the newly drawn 25th District was unaffected by the proposed changes made by the Stanford professor. He declared that he looked forward to representing Moore County and that he plans to file for re-election to a third term in the Senate.
On the House side, most of Moore County would remain in the 52nd District, now represented by Rep. Jamie Boles. The remainder would still be in the 78th district — which includes the Carthage and DHR precincts and part of Robbins and Westmoore — along with most of Randolph County. That district is represented by Republican Allen McNeill of Asheboro.
During the question-and-answer period Monday, Moore was asked if the General Assembly would have to depend on state Attorney General Josh Stein, who is a Democrat, to defend the maps. He responded that the legislature has retained its own attorney.
“Josh Stein is a fine person,” Moore said. “But I think he has made some errors in his job as attorney general that has eroded our confidence in the attorney general substantially. One of those was the voter ID law.”
Moore, himself an attorney from Kings Mountain, criticized Stein’s decision to dismiss the state’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court before it could be heard.
“I would much rather have had a negative decision by the U.S. Supreme Court than to never have had the opportunity to be heard,” he said.
The appeals court ruled that ID law was discriminatory against minorities because some might not be able to obtain a photo ID.
Moore charged that the court of appeals ruling was done for “political reasons.” The law also eliminated the practice of allowing people to register to vote on the same day they vote during early voting, called same-day registration. The appeals court ordered that to be reinstated.
“You have to make some pretty big somersaults to argue for the 4th Circuit’s decision that somehow saying that to have some form of ID — as is required in other states and has been upheld by the Supreme Court — is somehow discriminatory and that is discriminatory to say you can’t register on the same day and vote. … Same-day registration is rife for fraud. We won at the District Court and lost at the 4th Circuit. We were on our way to the Supreme Court.
“We overwhelmingly passed a law for North Carolina that says you have to show your photo ID to vote,” Moore said. “If you don’t have an ID, we will give you one. But even after that, we said if don’t have it, we’ll accept other forms of identification of who you are pursuant to a federal law called Help Americans Vote Act. We’re not doing anything new. We’re like a lot of states in that regard.”
Moore indicated that there are plans to reintroduce a voter ID bill in the next session of the General Assembly and hinted that it could be done through an amendment to the state Constitution. That would require approval of two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate to place it on the ballot for the voters to decide.
He said that would be one way “to get around the court” in requiring voters to have photo identification.
“This is just commonsense,” he said.