News: Quick Takes

Lawsuit already filed before district maps are approved

A speaker addresses the legislature's Joint Redistricting Committee in Raleigh on October 26, 2021 during one of a series of public forms and hearings. Photo by Maya Reagan, Carolina Journal
A speaker addresses the legislature's Joint Redistricting Committee in Raleigh on October 26, 2021 during one of a series of public forms and hearings. Photo by Maya Reagan, Carolina Journal

Interest groups have already filed lawsuits to block approval of new redistricting maps for North Carolina. The maps are still in development with several legislative map proposals having been presented to the public in recent hearings.

In a motion filed Friday, Oct. 29. the Southern Coalition for Justice is leading the lawsuit for the North Carolina NAACP and Common Cause in N.C. NAACP v. Berger. Their suit names as defendants Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore in their official capacity as legislative leaders, along with chairs of the House and Senate Redistricting and Elections Committees, and members of the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

Joint Redistricting Chairman Destin Hall, who was named in the filing as a defendant, responded to the action immediately.

“North Carolina Republicans have embarked on the most transparent redistricting process in North Carolina history,” he stated. “I stand firmly behind our process and look forward to fighting against this ludicrous lawsuit.”

The N.C. NAACP and Southern Coalition for Justice have repeatedly sued the Republican-led legislature over district maps. This time, they argue, they’re taking legal action against the maps that are not yet completely drawn or approved because they want to get the lawsuits started before the impending candidate filing date of Dec. 6, 2021, precludes legal action.

“Absent immediate intervention by this Court, the legislature will once again consign North Carolina voters to yet another decade of district uncertainty,” the complaint reads.

Moore, R-Cleveland, pointed out the litigious political strategy, urging Democrats to spend more time on their policies and less on their lawsuits.

“North Carolina Democrats have reached a new low in their campaign to ‘Sue Til Blue,’ filing a lawsuit even before the maps have been enacted,” he stated. “As they have done for a decade now, the Democrats continue to focus on legal battles when they cannot win at the ballot box.”

The complaint focuses primarily on Voting Rights Act and the groups’ objection to the legislature not considering race when drawing the state legislative and congressional district maps, using a “race-neutral” process instead. Previous lawsuits from these groups have been based on their objections to using race in redistricting maps.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to force the legislature to change its drawing process and asking that the court delay candidate filing and the March 2022 primary elections.

“Lawmakers’ supposed ‘race-blind’ redistricting process is rigged to reduce the strength of our votes, silence our voices, and negate decades of struggle and sacrifice for fairer maps,” said Deborah Dicks Maxwell, President of the North Carolina NAACP.“You can’t represent all of North Carolina if you claim not to see us.”

Debate on the redistricting proposals begins Monday, Nov. 1. The House committee is considering a new state House map, while the Senate is considering a version for its chamber. Legislative leaders indicated that final votes on the new boundaries could come later in the week.