- A new federal lawsuit levels racial gerrymandering charges against all three of North Carolina's new statewide election maps.
- The North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, left-of-center activist group Common Cause, and eight individual plaintiffs target maps for state House, state Senate, and congressional elections.
- The suit asks a federal court to block state officials from “calling, holding, supervising, or certifying any elections” under the challenged maps.
A new federal lawsuit targets all three of North Carolina’s new statewide election maps for unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. The North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, left-of-center activist group Common Cause, and eight individual plaintiffs want federal courts to block those maps.
“In 2023, the North Carolina General Assembly redrew its state legislative and congressional plans to severely diminish the voting power of North Carolina’s Black voters, who comprise over 22% of residents in the state,” according to the 87-page complaint. “The General Assembly achieved this by intentionally dismantling existing and longstanding Black opportunity districts and diluting Black voting power in North Carolina’s historic Black Belt, which stretches across the northeastern portion of the state, and by selectively targeting Black voters in other areas of the state. The effect of these actions is to inequitably reduce the electoral influence of the Black voters of North Carolina in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the United States Constitution.”
Plaintiffs are working with lawyers from the Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice, along with a law firm with offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC.
The lawsuit says state legislators adopted their maps for state House, state Senate, and congressional races “using an intentionally rushed and deficient process that denied any opportunity for meaningful engagement and showed clear disregard for the interests, needs, and desires of North Carolina’s Black voters.”
The General Assembly’s redistricting criteria “any formal evaluation or consideration of race despite clear and recent instruction from this country’s highest court” in a case titled Allen v. Milligan. “In Milligan, the Supreme Court confirmed that attention to Black voting power in areas with high Black populations during redistricting is crucial to ensuring compliance with the Voting Rights Act.”
“This is particularly true in areas such as North Carolina’s Black Belt that have, in recent years, included districts that allowed Black voters the opportunity to elect their candidates of choice,” the lawsuit continued. “Because the General Assembly refused to conduct any evaluation of racial demography to ensure legal compliance with the Voting Rights Act and other mandates, the proposed redistricting plans unsurprisingly failed to meet those legal requirements.”
Plaintiffs cite “a predetermined unwillingness to comply with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.” The suit also rejects the notion that Republican legislative leaders acted only from “partisan motivation.”
“[T]he General Assembly targeted predominantly Black voting precincts with surgical precision throughout the state in drawing and enacting the 2023 Plans, at the expense of traditional redistricting criteria, to achieve preferred district lines that diminish Black voters’ ability to elect candidates of their choice at all levels of government,” the suit argued.
The suit specifically targets state Senate Districts 1, 2, 7, and 8; state House Districts 4, 5, 7, 10, 12, 24, 25, and 32; and Congressional Districts 1, 5, 6, 9, and 10.
Plaintiffs urge the court to enjoin state officials from “calling, holding, supervising, or certifying any elections” under the challenged maps. The suit also calls for a remedial process that would produce new maps “in time for use no later than the 2026 general election and beyond.”
This is the third federal lawsuit targeting North Carolina’s new statewide election maps.
In the first case, US District Judge James Dever rejected a request to block candidate filing in a suit targeting only the state Senate map. Plaintiffs still hope Dever will rule by Dec. 29 on their request for an injunction that would block that map.
In the second suit, the chief judge of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals appointed a three-judge panel this month to consider a challenge to the state’s congressional map. All three judges were appointed to the bench by Republican presidents.
Plaintiffs in the latest suit, North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP v. Berger, also seek a three-judge panel to review their claims.