A federal judge declined today to issue a preliminary injunction on N.C. Senate maps passed by the General Assembly in October.
The decision — which could have blocked the maps from being used in the 2024 elections and constitutes a major win for state Republicans — came out of a lawsuit filed by two Black voters in northeastern North Carolina. The plaintiffs claimed the state senate maps in that area of the state were drawn to disenfranchise Black voters and dilute their power. While some counties in the area have majority-Black populations, none of the senate districts are majority-Black.
But, Judge James Dever III said in today's decision, the plaintiffs didn't show sufficient evidence that the Voting Rights Act requires a judge to mandate a majority-Black district in northeastern North Carolina.
Dever, a judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina appointed by President George W. Bush, also strongly objected to the preliminary injunction requested in the lawsuit because the state senate elections are already underway. The plaintiffs filed suit in late November, before filing for the elections began, but Dever rejected a quick turnaround for the case, saying the demand for a speedy decision was unjustified and placed too much demand on the court.
"The court declines plaintiffs' invitation to issue the requested extraordinary, mandatory preliminary injunction and thereby inflict voter confusion and chaos on the 2024 Senate elections in North Carolina," Devers wrote in the decision.
The case will continue at the trial court level, and proposed schedules will be submitted to the court by the middle of February.
The lawsuit was the first of three filed against the new maps passed by the General Assembly last year. The maps could give Republicans a 10-4 or 11-3 advantage in the state's congressional delegation and a potential supermajority in the General Assembly.