Win at the ballot box, but not yet at the courthouse



(The Center Square) – Rodney Pierce got confirmation of a ballot box win in his bid for the North Carolina General Assembly last week.

Victory at the courthouse, however, remained elusive.

The Roanoke Rapids schoolteacher and Moses Matthews of Martin County have sued asking for relief on state Senate district maps. Pierce won a House of Representatives seat in the Democratic primary, defeating 10-term incumbent Michael Wray of Gaston, and will not face a Republican in the Nov. 5 general election.

He won after protests were filed in all three counties he’ll represent, and recounts in each. His victory was by 34 votes from 11,938 counted.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled 2-1 on Thursday backing a trial court’s January decision refusing to issue a preliminary injunction. Pierce and Matthews say lawmakers violated the Voting Rights Act. Judge James Dever, for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, said new districts were not justified by means of preliminary injunction.

Judge Allison Rushing, writing the 4th Circuit’s majority opinion, said it is possible at trial evidence can be shown of a violation of the Voting Rights Act. Relief before trial, however, was not satisfied by what they and their attorneys showed the court.

Districts 1 and 2 of the state’s 50 were under consideration in the case, though a redraw could have impacted other districts, lawyers said. Those two districts did not have primaries on March 5.

Pierce and Matthews are residents of District 2. The lawsuit drew a court brief backing the injunction request from two prominent Democratic lawyers, Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein.

Multiple lawsuits with accusations of racial gerrymanders have been filed since the latest redistricting maps were implemented. Republicans, after 140 years without majorities in both chambers at the same time, overcame Democrat-friendly maps in the 2010 midterms and ever since have faced dozens of litigations in map-drawing exercises at the federal and state level.

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