Federal Judge Declines to Block New North Carolina Senate Map for 2024 Elections

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal judge today denied a request from Black voters seeking to immediately block North Carolina’s new state Senate districts that were enacted last month by the Republican-controlled Legislature. 

The Legislature’s redrawing of the state Senate districts — along with the state House and congressional districts — ensued nearly five months after the North Carolina Supreme Court’s newly constituted Republican majority overturned its prior decisions prohibiting partisan gerrymandering in an April 2023 decision. 

In a federal lawsuit filed in November 2023, Black voters alleged that the newly drawn 1st and 2nd Senate Districts violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act 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. The voters asked the court to adopt a new state Senate map prior to the 2024 elections that includes a minority-opportunity district in the northeast part of the state and does not “crack” Black voters across multiple districts. 

In today’s order denying the plaintiffs’ request to block the districts as litigation proceeds, a Bush-appointed federal judge wrote that there is “insufficient evidence [to show] that Section 2 requires a majority-black Senate district in northeast North Carolina.” The judge added that doing so would amount to the creation of a racially gerrymandered district that was impermissibly drawn using “race-based sorting.” 

In addition to concluding that the Black voters “are not likely to succeed on the merits of their Section 2 claim,” the judge held that the plaintiffs’ requested relief would constitute a “textbook violation” of the Purcell principle the idea that changing voting laws or maps too close to an election would cause voter confusion.  

“The 2024 Senate elections in North Carolina are underway. Absentee ballots are in the mail…The court declines plaintiffs’ invitation to issue the requested extraordinary, mandatory preliminary injunction and thereby inflict voter confusion and chaos on the 2024 Senate elections in North Carolina,” the order reads. 

The plaintiffs have already appealed today’s order to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Meanwhile, two other federal lawsuits challenging North Carolina’s newly drawn maps remain ongoing. One case, filed by the NAACP in December 2023, challenges the state’s legislative and congressional districts under both the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution and seeks new districts prior to the 2026 election cycle. The other, brought by a group of Black and Latino voters, brings U.S. constitutional claims solely against the congressional map. 

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here.