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North Carolina sued over new state Senate maps

Newly redrawn district lines for the North Carolina State Senate divide predominantly black counties in a way that dilutes the power of black residents, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

The lawsuit — filed against the North Carolina State Board of Elections, the president of the state Senate and the speaker of the state House of Representatives — alleges that the new senatorial districts violate the state’s Senate Districts Act. voting rights.

“Despite ample evidence of racially polarized voting and a history of discrimination in northeastern North Carolina’s ‘Black Belt Counties,’ and despite the requirement under the Voting Rights Act, to analyze this evidence before drawing districts, the North Carolina General Assembly adopted a Senate decision. plan that unlawfully deprives black voters of the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” according to the suit.

The lawsuit claims the redistricting plan is “only the most recent episode” in the state’s history of racial discrimination and race-based voter suppression.

In the state’s lower house, recently approved redrawn maps could flip several seats. The Republican-led General Assembly approved new maps in mid-October that could give Republicans a big advantage in 2024.

The North Carolina Supreme Court previously struck down the maps, saying they ran afoul of the state constitution’s ban on large-scale partisan gerrymandering. The decision was overturned because the state Supreme Court found that allegations of partisan gerrymandering could not be resolved in state courts.

In the lawsuit filed in the state Senate, the plaintiffs say the redrawn maps restrict black voters in an already highly polarized region and dilute the power of their votes relative to white voters in the new districts. North Carolina’s eight majority-black counties are divided among four separate districts under the Senate’s new redistricting plan.

The General Assembly failed to conduct or consider an analysis of the Voting Rights Act when planning its 2023 state Senate plan, the plaintiffs argued in their action.

Instead, the Legislature could have created a majority-minority district that would meet the law’s requirements and adhere to the state’s redistricting criteria in a way that would not inconvenience the state’s black voters, they said. added.

“Black people in North Carolina, including in Black Belt counties, are significantly more likely to be poor than white people in North Carolina,” the plaintiffs said in the suit. “They also face discrimination in education, housing, employment and health care, and are less able to participate effectively in the political process. »

The plaintiffs’ attorneys filed a motion to expedite the proceedings, asking the court to complete arguments and rule on a motion for a preliminary injunction by Dec. 1.

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