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NAACP, Common Cause sue in federal court, alleging new maps are racially gerrymandered

City AG Settlements bill veto Pictures (1).jpg

The North Carolina General Assembly building in Raleigh, N.C.

The N.C. NAACP, along with anti-gerrymandering group Common Cause, sued in federal court on Tuesday morning to stop the use of newly drawn maps because they constitute a racial gerrymander.

The lawsuit — the third challenging North Carolina's new maps — alleges that the maps for North Carolina's congressional delegation, its state house and its state senate were all racially gerrymandered. The two previous lawsuits had only challenged one of the three maps.

"The 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 lawsuit said.

The challenges primarily focus on northeastern North Carolina, which has a large Black population. The lawsuit says state senate districts 1 and 2, which were also challenged in a previous lawsuit, purposefully dilute the power of Black voters, violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Two other state senate districts around Wilmington were challenged as being drawn primarily because of race, in violation of the 14th Amendment.

The state senate plans as a whole were challenged on 14th Amendment grounds, too. The plaintiffs said the fluctuation in population from district to district cannot be justified by simply partisan motivations — as Republican legislators have claimed.

The state house plan for Wake and Forsyth counties were challenged as racial gerrymanders for intentionally packing Black voters into few districts. 

State house districts in the northeastern part of the state were also challenged as diluting the power of Black voters — who, the plaintiffs said, only have an equal opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice in three state house districts in the area out of six potential Black opportunity districts.

The congressional district covering that part of the state, District 1, is the only competitive district in the new plans and was also challenged as diluting Black voting power. The seat is currently held by Democratic Rep. Don Davis, who is running for reelection.

The four congressional districts around the Triad were also challenged as a racial gerrymander in an area with "one of the most concentrated, longstanding and historically significant Black populations in the state," the lawsuit said. All four districts have a strong Republican and white majority, and major population centers Greensboro and Winston-Salem were broken up under the new maps.

Partisan gerrymandering is effectively legal in North Carolina after a decision in April from the state supreme court allowed the N.C. General Assembly to draw maps with no interference from state courts, and these new maps are the first to be drawn after that decision. The U.S. Supreme Court had previously said federal courts could not consider partisan gerrymandering claims.

But, racial gerrymandering claims are still justiciable in federal courts, and racially gerrymandered maps in Alabama and Georgia have recently been struck down by federal courts.

The plaintiffs asked the federal court to prevent the use of the maps in any elections, and for a new set of maps to be drawn "no later than" the 2026 elections.

Read the lawsuit below:

@ethanehorton1

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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Ethan E. Horton

Ethan E. Horton is the 2023-24 city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a city & state assistant editor and as the 2023 summer managing editor. Ethan is a senior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and political science, with a minor in history.