Thirteen Wake County residents and two community organizations today appealed the dismissal of their lawsuit challenging the redistricting of the Wake County Board of Education districts as violative of the one-person, one-vote requirements of the United States and North Carolina Constitutions.
The individuals and groups contend that the legislature overpopulated their urban districts while leaving adjacent, more rural districts underpopulated – thus diluting the urban vote.
In his ruling in March, U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle found that the population disparities in the new districts did not reach levels necessary to support a challenge under one-person, one-vote provisions.
He also found that at its core the challenge to the new districts amounted to a claim of political gerrymandering which the courts will not consider:
All of the factors which plaintiffs say point to taint of arbitrariness or discrimination lead back to politics. Plaintiffs allege a favoritism of rural areas of the county over urban areas and they allege the targeting of democratic incumbents by the placement of three democratic incumbents into two republican leaning districts with republican incumbents. However, plaintiffs admit that the end result is political advantage. Plaintiffs do not argue that the population deviations are a result of discrimination on the basis of race or some other suspect classification. They claim only an impermissible political bias.
But the plaintiffs in the case disagree.
“The federal courts have made clear that favoring rural voters over urban voters, or favoring one political party over another are not legitimate justifications for deviations from the one-person, one-vote principle,” their attorney Anita Earls, Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said. “This case is not a partisan gerrymandering claim – it is a one-person, one-vote claim that must be taken seriously by all Wake County residents interested in fair elections.”
Read Judge Boyle’s order dismissing the complaint in Wright, et al. v. State of North Carolina et al. here.