RALEIGH, N.C. — A three-judge Superior Court panel has deferred a decision today to the state Supreme Court on whether certain documents generated during Republicans’ redistricting process should be open to public inspection.

The North Carolina Supreme Court is currently considering whether memos, emails and other documents from the Ogletree Deakins law firm, generated between March and July 2011, should be considered public information. The Republican-controlled legislature paid over $200,000 in state funds to the law firm for advice and consultation on the redrawn district maps.

The NAACP and its North Carolina state conference says the new maps are “resegregated voting districts of the most race based nature…since the 19th century.” The group argues that the most recent redistricting, following the 2010 census, suppresses black voters by splitting them among divided precincts and dismantled integrated districts “where coalitions of black and white voters have common interests.”

The state’s top court has heard arguments in the case but has not yet issued a ruling.

The North Carolina Open Government Coalition, North Carolina Press Association and North Carolina Association of Broadcasters each filed amicus briefs in the case. The groups say the public has a right to what rules and procedures legislators used when drawing the new map.

“We believe that since Black, Brown, and White taxpayers paid for these maps, we have the right under our public records statute to see what factors were used by the racial demographic manipulator consultants who designed them for the Berger-Tillis-legislature,” Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, state conference president, said in a release. Who showed Berger and Tillis and their [R]epublican majority how to resegregate North Carolina’s voting districts — packing as many black voters in one district and bleaching the voters in surrounding districts to minimize Black-Brown-White fusion voting power which is in the strategic interests of Black people[?] We in the NAACP believe this multi-racial voting coalition is also in the long range interest of all North Carolinians.”

Barber said House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Guilford) have misled the public.

“Messrs. Tillis, Berger and their tea party backed funders and lobbyists use party as a proxy for race,” he said. “They use lawyer as a proxy for a racial demographic manipulator. But everyone who has been paying attention to race-based voting schemes, first devised by the old southern Democratic Party from 1865 up through 1965 to suppress, dilute, and minimize the power of Black-White fusion politics, knows these maps have everything to do with race.”

Irving Joyner, the NAACP’s legal redress chair said the ultimate question int he case is “whether the attorneys for the North Carolina General Assembly can hide relevant information from the public regarding its actions in totally reconstructing the State’s redistricting process and decision-making.”

The NAACP says similar redistricting schemes have taken place throughout the South.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.