Black Voters Challenge North Carolina’s 2023 State Senate Map in New Federal Lawsuit

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Black voters today filed a federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s new state Senate districts that were enacted last month by the Republican-controlled Legislature. 

The North Carolina Legislature’s redrawing of the state Senate districts — along with the state House and congressional 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 lawsuit alleges that the new state Senate districts violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) by unlawfully depriving Black voters of the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in the Black Belt counties of northeastern North Carolina, including Bertie, Hertford, Edgecombe, Northampton and Halifax Counties. 

Section 2 of the VRA prohibits any map or voting practice that discriminates on the basis of race. The Black voters specifically point to how the new state Senate redistricting plan “cracks” Black voters in the region across multiple districts — including the 1st and 2nd Senate Districts — thereby resulting in the dilution of Black voting power. 

The plaintiffs note the Republican-controlled Legislature ignored a letter from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice containing expert analysis that demonstrated how white voters in the region prefer different candidates than their Black counterparts — a concept known as racially polarized voting. 

According to the complaint, the “white majority in the surrounding area is…politically cohesive…overwhelmingly supports Republican candidates, and historically votes as a bloc to defeat Black voters’ candidates of choice.” In contrast, Black voters largely support Democratic candidates, the complaint states. 

In support of their claims, the Black voters also underscore the state’s long history of racially discriminatory voting practices, ranging from onerous voter ID requirements to unfair redistricting plans. The effects of such practices, the lawsuit argues, are still evident to this day. 

The lawsuit ultimately asks the court to  strike down the current state Senate plan and order the adoption of a map that includes a minority-opportunity district in northeastern North Carolina. 

In response to the new lawsuit, Sen. Dan Blue (D) — leader of the North Carolina Senate Democrats — stated that “[t]he plan enacted by the General Assembly in late October splits, cracks, and packs black voters to dilute their votes and blunt their ability to fully participate in the democratic process.” Nevertheless, Blue concluded that he is “confident that the court will see this blatant injustice and move to swiftly adopt a remedy, restoring the people’s faith in our shared democratic process.”

This is the first legal challenge to be filed against the North Carolina Legislature’s newly enacted redistricting plans. 

Read the complaint here.

Learn more about the case here.