Awkwardly-shaped state legislative districts drawn by North Carolina Republicans in 2011 went back on trial Monday, just two months after federal judges who heard similar arguments threw out some congressional boundaries as illegal racial gerrymanders. Voters in nine House districts and 19 Senate districts sued last year. The General Assembly maps have helped the GOP expand and retain its control of the legislature in in the 2012 and 2014 elections. State judges have previously upheld challenged legislative boundary lines in separate lawsuits. A three-judge panel February struck down the majority-black 1st and 12th Congressional Districts, forcing lawmakers to draw new lines and delay the congressional primaries until June. That court decision has raised expectations that the challenged legislative districts could also be struck down, forcing lawmakers to redraw them as well.
As in the congressional district case, plaintiffs in the two federal cases argue GOP legislators violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act when they went too far drawing state legislative districts with black voting-age populations of more than 50 percent. Their lawyers contend that packing an inordinate number of minorities into some districts dilutes minority influence in other districts, in violation of federal voting law.
All but one of the 28 districts challenged are majority-black. Democratic mapmakers created only 10 majority-black districts during the last full General Assembly redistricting in 2003. The plaintiffs say in recent decades black voters in districts that are not black-majority have been electing their preferred candidates with the help of white voters.
The expansion of majority-black districts reinforces racial stereotypes that black voters can only vote for or be represented by those with the same skin-color, plaintiffs’ attorney Anita Earls said during her opening statement in a Greensboro courtroom.
Full Article: Judges scrutinizing NC legislative districts.