Wednesday, December 6, 2023

North Carolina sued over new state Senate maps

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The newly redrawn district boundaries for the North Carolina state Senate divide predominantly Black counties in a way that dilutes the power of Black residents, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

The lawsuit — filed against the North Carolina State Board of Elections, the president of the state Senate and Speaker of the state House of Representatives — alleges that the new Senate districts violate the Voting Rights Act.

“Despite having ample evidence of racially polarized voting and a history of discrimination in the ‘Black Belt counties’ of northeastern North Carolina, and an obligation under the Voting Rights Act to analyze that evidence before drawing districts, the North Carolina General Assembly adopted a Senate plan that unlawfully deprives Black voters of the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” according to the suit.

The lawsuit claims the redistricting plan is “just the most recent episode” in the state’s history of racial discrimination and race-based voter suppression.

In the state’s lower chamber, newly approved redrawn maps could flip multiple seats. The state’s GOP-led General Assembly approved new maps in mid-October that could give Republicans a big advantage in 2024.

The North Carolina Supreme Court previously struck down the maps, contending they went against the state constitution’s ban against extensive partisan gerrymandering. The decision was overruled because the state Supreme Court found that claims of partisan gerrymandering can’t be resolved by state courts.

In the state Senate lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue that the redrawn maps restrict Black voters in an already highly polarized region and dilute the power of their votes compared to white voters in the new districts. North Carolina’s eight majority Black counties are split between four separate districts under the new Senate redistricting plan.

The General Assembly failed to conduct or failed to consider a Voting Rights Act analysis when planning its 2023 state Senate plan, the plaintiffs argued in their suit.

Instead, the Legislature could have created a majority-minority district that would meet the law’s requirements and adhere to the state’s redistricting criteria in a way that wouldn’t hinder the state’s Black voters, they added.

“Black North Carolinians, including in the Black Belt counties, are significantly more likely to be impoverished than white North Carolinians,” the plaintiffs in the suit said. “They likewise face discrimination in education, housing, employment, and healthcare, and are less able to participate effectively in the political process.”

The plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a motion to expedite proceedings, asking the court to finish arguments and decide on a motion for a preliminary injunction by Dec. 1.

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