Civil rights groups sue over North Carolina redistricting

Allison Riggs, Southern Coalition for Social Justice voting rights chief counsel and co-executive director

The state NAACP, Common Cause, and individual voters are suing key Republican legislators and the state Board of Elections, saying the way the legislature is drawing new districts violates the law.

They are asking a judge to tell the Board of Elections to the delay the candidate filing period and next spring’s primary to give the legislature time to use a constitutional process to draw new plans.

The legislature held public hearings on redistricting plans this week, but it has not voted on any. Legislative committees are set to debate redistricting proposals next week. Republicans posted new proposed maps for state Senate districts and congressional seats on Friday. The congressional map appears to be different from any available for the public hearings.

Multiple lawsuits over the decades have forced legislatures to draw and redrawn election districts.

Lawyers for Republican legislators have argued to courts in the past when their plans are challenged that there was no time to make changes, said Allison Riggs, chief counsel for voting rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

“The legislature is running out the clock,” she said.

Senate leader Phil Berger’s office and House Speaker Tim Moore’s office did not respond to email Friday afternoon.

In a tweet, Rep. Destin Hall, the House Redistricting Committee chairman, said “The Democrats Sue Til Blue strategy has become so desperate that they are now suing BEFORE maps are even passed.”

In 2017, the state lost a case over its congressional map, with courts deciding that the plan was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

In 2019, judges threw out legislative maps for being unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders.

Republicans said as redistricting got underway this year that they would draw maps without considering data on partisanship or race. They refused to do a study of racially-polarized voting, which Democrats said was needed.

At public hearings this week, voters pushed back, saying legislators can easily identify voting blocs without using data.

Republican mapmakers failed to follow instructions in a state Supreme Court decision from 2002 requiring legislators draw districts that comply with the federal Voting Rights Act before they draw other districts. Voting Rights Act districts give voters of color the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.

“We need a court to recognize that our clients have rights that are already being violated,” Riggs told reporters Friday.

“North Carolina cannot handle another decade of unconstitutional maps,” she said. “The harm that that does to our democracy is one that we’ve been feeling the ramifications of for 10 years. It’s too much and we’re going to start fighting back today.”

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