- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A second lawsuit charging that race was used unconstitutionally to determine new legislative districts has been filed, this time by plaintiffs who hope federal judges will move more quickly to resolve the issue than the state’s top court.

Twenty-seven plaintiffs filed the most recent lawsuit in U.S. District Court, seeking a three-judge panel to hear their complaint about the use of race in determining the 2011 lines for nine Senate and 19 House districts.

“Drawn with race as their predominant purpose, without compelling justification or narrow tailoring, the challenged districts cannot pass constitutional muster,” says the lawsuit, filed May 19.

Plaintiffs sued last week in federal court in hopes of getting a ruling before the 2016 elections, said Eddie Speas, an attorney representing those challenging the new districts.

“We think this case will enhance the chance that we can get some quick decisions about these very important issues,” Speas said.

It’s the third lawsuit over North Carolina districts. One filed in federal court challenges congressional districts, and a lawsuit challenging both legislative and congressional districts is back before the state Supreme Court after the U.S. Supreme Court tossed a state ruling that upheld the Republican-drawn electoral districts.

The U.S. Supreme Court told state judges to look at whether lawmakers depended too much on race in drawing boundaries that increased minority representation at the Legislature but also boosted GOP fortunes.

In a two-sentence order, the justices told the North Carolina Supreme Court to revisit its decision last December upholding the maps, and to review it in light of the U.S. high court’s decision about the use of race in drawing districts in Alabama.

Critics in both states argue that GOP-led legislatures illegally packed black voters into voting districts that reduced their power.

Scott Falmlen, president of an organization founded to oppose North Carolina’s redistricting, said the state Supreme Court took almost a year to decide the redistricting case the first time around and that the plaintiffs didn’t want to wait that long for a second decision.

“We do not believe the citizens of North Carolina should have to go through one more election cycle utilizing maps that are unconstitutional,” said Falmlen, president of the Democracy Project.

Republicans who led the 2011 mapmaking committees have said that they believe the maps are lawful and designed to protect the state from legal claims under the federal Voting Rights Act.

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Martha Waggoner can be reached at https://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc


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