Reporting by Michael Wines:
The advocacy group Common Cause said in court documents submitted in Raleigh on Thursday that the Hofeller files include new evidence showing how North Carolina Republicans misled a federal court to prolong the life of their map of state legislative districts, which had been ruled unconstitutional.
The Republicans told the federal court hearing the map case that they would not be able to draw new legislative districts and hold public hearings on them in time for a proposed special election in late 2017 or early 2018. In fact, Common Cause said, Mr. Hofeller’s files show that almost all the work had already been done.
While the advocacy group’s court filing did not include any of the underlying documents from Mr. Hofeller’s storage drives, it stated that a detailed analysis of the maps found among his files showed that new boundaries had been drawn for more than 97 percent of the state’s proposed Senate districts and 90 percent of House districts.
The federal court’s decision later not to call a special election left the existing legislative gerrymander — and a veto-proof Republican majority in both the state House and Senate — in place for roughly an additional year.
Republicans used that extra time to, among other things, try to tilt the state judiciary rightward, remap elected judges’ districts in the state’s largest county, and tweak election rules for the state Supreme Court. They restructured the State Board of Elections to dilute the influence of Roy Cooper, the state’s Democratic governor. And they tacked six proposed constitutional amendments onto last November’s ballot — many of them, like a proposal to make fishing and hunting a constitutional right, aimed at pumping up Republican turnout.
The new evidence about the actions of the Republicans in North Carolina “raises serious questions about the legitimacy of their hold on power in the state,” said Eric Holder, an attorney general in the Obama administration who now heads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. The committee’s nonprofit arm has financed the Common Cause lawsuit. “They should now explain to the court — and the people of North Carolina — why they are so intent on manipulating the election process for their own benefit,” Mr. Holder said in a written statement.