NC JUSTICE NEWS: Redistricting Drama Continues + Special Crucial Conversation in Charlotte + Welcome to Our New Board Members!

February 23, 2016

VOTING RIGHTS BATTLE: New maps appear and SCOTUS refuses to step in

Mere weeks before the North Carolina primary on March 15th, the battle for voting rights in North Carolina continues apace.

Last week state lawmakers approved new congressional voting districts after a federal panel found the 2011 maps to be unconstitutional and threw out North Carolina’s Congressional Districts 1 and 12 as racial gerrymanders. The latest maps shifted all 13 congressional districts, oddly leaving two members of Congress living nowhere near the districts they represent. Leaders in the House and Senate claim they weren't paying attention to race when they drew the new maps. Yet curiously many black voters have now been packed into three districts, in turn diluting their influence elsewhere in the state.

The drama continued as Sharon McCloskey with NC Policy Watch reported that just hours after state lawmakers approved the new voting districts, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to step into the lawsuit challenging those districts and refused to block enforcement of the panel’s order.

"The state’s application to the high court went initially to Chief Justice John Roberts, who then referred it to the full court. Although their ruling comes after the General Assembly had already redrew the congressional districts and thus was to some degree not necessary, the ruling does signal that a majority on the high court believed the 2011 districts to be constitutionally deficient — as there was no indication that the justices were otherwise split 4-4.

According to some, the new map may also be deficient. The federal panel found that state lawmakers used race as the controlling factor when drawing the 2011 maps. Democrats in the General Assembly have been highly critical of the new voting districts, which the Republican majority created without any consideration of race at all. That too is likely a violation of the Voting Rights Act, they say."

Keep a close eye on McCloskey and NC Policy Watch as the redistricting drama carries on.

CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: Special Charlotte event on immigration policy

With 2016 election campaigns already well underway, immigrants and immigration policy are, for better or worse, front and center in the national and state political debates. Unfortunately, much of the discussion has more than to do with fear than truth. Given this backdrop, there is a greater need than ever for caring and thinking people to be armed with the facts.

N.C. Policy Watch invites you to a special Charlotte Crucial Conversation in Charlotte featuring Patrick McHugh of the NC Justice Center's Budget & Tax Center and Raul Pinto of the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project.

McHugh conducts research and analysis on issues related to the economy and economic policy with the BTC. Earlier this year, he authored a special report entitled “Smart Choices in an Era of Migration” which examined how the growing immigrant population in North Carolina has contributed to the economic vitality of the state. Pinto is a staff attorney at the Justice Center’s Immigrants and Refugees Rights Project where he represents low-income individuals negotiating the immigration system. Raul has conducted extensive public education about constitutional rights to Spanish speaking audiences and developed written materials about the rights of immigrants and protecting civil liberties.

The event will be held on Thursday, March 3 at noon at Harris Hall in the Levine Museum of the New South, 200 E. Seventh St. in downtown Charlotte. Click here to register.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Welcome to our newest members!

The North Carolina Justice Center would like to wish a warm welcome to our new members of the Board of Directors. Representing a diversity of interests and regions across the state, the new members join the organization in their fight to eradicate poverty and ensure fair treatment of our state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Dr. Eric Mansfield previously served in the NC Senate from Cumberland County. He attended Howard University, the Morehouse School of Medicine, and conducted his surgical and otolaryngology residency at Tulane University’s School of Medicine. He served as a medical officer in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Bragg. After his military service, Mansfield established Cape Fear Otolaryngology, an ear, nose and throat practice in Fayetteville. He currently lives in Holly Springs in Wake County.

Ann McColl has been practicing in the field of education law since 1991. She served as an associate professor at the UNC Charlotte College of Education from 2002 to 2009, and as a visiting and adjunct associate professor at the School of Government at UNC Chapel Hill. McColl has served as legislative director for the State Board of Education and as general counsel for the North Carolina Association of Educators. She is currently an attorney at Everett Gaskins Hancock in Raleigh.

Ray Rapp served for 10 years in the NC House of Representatives before losing in 2012. He has served as alderman and mayor of Mars Hill, and as the Dean of Adult Access and a professor at Mars Hill College. He graduated from UNC Chapel Hill and lives in Mars Hill, Madison County.

J. Wayne Riggins has worked as an ophthalmologist and optometrist for over 30 years. A retired Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps, he completed his medical internship and residency with the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He worked as the Chief of Ophthalmology and Assistant Chief in the Department of Surgery at the Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg before joining Cape Fear Eye Associates in Fayetteville, where he currently works. He is a trustee at Fayetteville State University and serves on the Board of Directors at Equality North Carolina.

Cullie Tarleton represented the 93rd district in the North Carolina House of Representatives – including Ashe and Watauga counties – for two terms, from January 2007 to December 2010. After his defeat in 2010, Tarleton served on the State Lottery Commission.  He is a retired broadcasting executive and general manager for WBTV, WBT (AM), and WCCB in Charlotte, and a veteran of the North Carolina Army National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserve.  A native of Union County, he lives in Blowing Rock.

Greg Weeks served as a judge for the Fourth Division of the Superior Court of North Carolina from January 1989 until his retirement on December 31, 2012. In the mid-1990s, he presided over the court proceedings in Robeson County against the two men accused of killing James Jordan, father of retired basketball star Michael Jordan. Weeks held some of the state's first hearings on whether racism put convicted killers on death row unfairly and as a result converted the sentences of three to life in prison without parole. Weeks served as an assistant Cumberland County public defender for ten years.

Dr. Jesse White is the Director of the Office of Economic and Business Development at UNC Chapel Hill and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Government. Prior to coming to UNC in 2003, he served for almost nine years as Federal Co-Chairman of the Appalachian Regional Commission, the longest tenure in the history of the agency. He serves or has served on the boards of Regional Technology Strategies and Equality North Carolina, as well as on the advisory boards of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, the Rural Poverty Research Center, and the William F. Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, among others.

They join our wonderful current board members Dede Carney, Narendra Ghosh, Frank Goldsmith, Karen Gottovi, Lisa Grafstein, Mal Maynard, Juvencio Rocha Peralta, Jr., Suzanne Reynolds, Keith Rivers, Cathy Tamsberg, and John I. Wilson.

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