WASHINGTON — North Carolina is one of four states where gerrymandered political boundaries gave lawmakers the power to restrict voting rights, further entrenching their unearned power.
That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C.
The report analyzes how partisan gerrymandering affects voting in North Carolina and three other states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — where the party that won a majority of state legislative seats in the 2018 elections received a minority of the vote in the state.
North Carolina is competitive at the state level, but Republicans dominate the state’s U.S. congressional delegation and both houses of the General Assembly, which controls the process by which congressional and state legislative maps are drawn.
In 2018, Republican candidates for the state Senate and House got less than half of the vote but won more than half of the seats in each chamber. While in office, they used their majority power to restrict voting rights, the report states, “further distancing themselves from accountability at the ballot box.”
That year, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring voters to use one of 10 types of photo identification at the ballot box, such as driver’s licenses or passports, but forbidding types that Black voters are more likely to have, according to the report.
Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill, but the GOP majority — along with two Democrats — overrode the veto. A court has since blocked the law because of its discriminatory effect.
It is one of several efforts gerrymandered state legislatures took to curtail voting participation or keep existing restrictions in place. Had maps been drawn fairly, Democrats would have won majority control — and used their power to expand voting access, not restrict it, the report argues.
“Because of gerrymandering, these four states dramatically failed a basic test of democracy — votes did not translate into political power,” the report states. “To make matters worse, gerrymandering has since gone hand in hand with increased restrictions on voting in each of these states.”
North Carolina has been home to fiery legal battles over gerrymandering in recent years.
Last year, in a case involving North Carolina voting rights advocates, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal courts could not wade into fights over partisan gerrymandering. But advocates won challenges in state court — prompting new maps that could lead to two more Democratic House seats in this year’s elections.