WASHINGTON, D.C. — A group of Black and Latino voters today filed a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s new congressional map that was enacted in October by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature.
The North Carolina Legislature’s redrawing of its congressional districts — along with its legislative districts — ensued after the North Carolina Supreme Court’s newly constituted Republican majority overturned its prior decisions prohibiting partisan gerrymandering in an April 2023 decision. The congressional map that was in place for the 2022 midterm elections was drawn by court-appointed experts as a result of state-level litigation.
Today’s lawsuit alleges that North Carolina’s redrawn congressional map systematically “cracks” and “packs” minority voters in order to entrench the state’s white majority and “erase the gains made by voters of color in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles.”
The plaintiffs specifically challenge the 1st, 6th, 12th and 14th Congressional Districts for being unconstitutional racially gerrymanders in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. According to the complaint, race was impermissibly used as the predominant factor in drawing the challenged districts without any compelling justification.
The new legal challenge contends that in addition to being drawn with race as the predominant factor, the challenged districts are intentionally discriminatory in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments. “The 2023 Congressional Plan is hardly North Carolina’s first racially discriminatory redistricting plan or voting practice,” the complaint reads, underscoring the state’s well-documented history of racial discrimination in voting and redistricting.
The lawsuit points out that the new map weakens and dismantles existing districts where minority voters had an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice. According to the complaint, the redrawn 1st Congressional District for instance — which is currently represented by Rep. Don Davis (D) — “move[s] minority communities in and out of the district with the effect of weakening an existing minority opportunity district,” resulting in a substantial dilution of Black and Latino voting power.
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs argue that the Legislature effectively eliminated existing minority-opportunity districts in the 6th and 14th Congressional Districts by significantly decreasing these districts’ Black and Latino voting age populations.
As the complaint explains, the 2023 redistricting process — which the Legislature announced with less than one week’s notice — was characterized by a lack of transparency. In particular, the Legislature flouted recommendations from nonpartisan civil rights and voter advocacy organizations about how to draw fair districts and provided little opportunity for public input on the redistricting proposals.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare the 2023 congressional plan unconstitutional and to order the adoption of lawful districts.
This is the first legal challenge to be filed against North Carolina’s newly enacted congressional map. Last month, a group of Black voters filed a federal lawsuit challenging the new state Senate districts under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The lawsuit asserts that the districts unlawfully deprive Black voters of the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in the Black Belt counties of northeastern North Carolina.