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Closing arguments wrap in fast-moving North Carolina redistricting trial

A North Carolina map is shown in Wake County Superior Court during a 2019 redistricting trial. Republicans and Democrats are preparing for a battle of state legislative supremacy that could have a big effect on political power for the next decade.
A North Carolina map is shown in Wake County Superior Court during a 2019 redistricting trial. Republicans and Democrats are preparing for a battle of state legislative supremacy that could have a big effect on political power for the next decade.

The parties in litigation challenging North Carolina’s new congressional and legislative district maps got a final chance to convince a panel of three Superior Court judges of their positions Thursday during closing arguments in a fast-moving trial.

Those judges will soon decide whether the North Carolina General Assembly's Republican majority overstepped constitutional bounds in the redistricting process.

Voters and advocacy groups who sued Republican legislative leaders say the maps the GOP drew are extreme partisan gerrymanders and diluted the voting power of Black residents. GOP lawmakers say the maps were lawfully approved.

Expert witnesses testified this week the maps are statistical outliers — giving Republicans an unfair advantage in a state where Democratic candidates for congress earned more votes overall in 2020.

That point is something attorney Elisabeth Theodore addressed in Thursday’s closing arguments.

"So this map is deliberately designed to ignore the will of the people,” she said.

But defense attorney Phil Strach said it's the Democrats who want to rig elections.

"All the maps tried to balance the goals of not splitting counties, municipalities and VTDs and they achieved that,” Strach argued.

The judges began hearing evidence Monday, and the state Supreme Court has told them to rule by early next week, with expected appeals to follow. A verdict is expected by Tuesday.

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