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Gerrymandering: This Civil Rights War is Happening Now

by May 15, 2014

Educate, Organize and Mobilize: Last week Jaymes Powell Jr. wrote for the African American Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party (AAC-NCDP) a very uplifting and accurate account of how Black candidates fared in the recent primaries.  I spoke with him and raised my concerns that his account, though accurate, might lead Black voters into a false sense of security that will haunt us in November and beyond.  Despite the successes of Black candidates in the past primaries, the threats created by gerrymandering and the Voter Suppression Act of 2013 are enormous.

I’ll briefly touch on the dangers of the success stories that he highlighted and explain why a large dose of caution is required.  I’ll talk about the tactic of gerrymandering and its diluting effect on Black voters even as we elect Black candidates. Many civil rights lawsuits attacking voter suppression focus on “packing.”  Packing is a districting strategy that dilutes Black voter strength by putting undue numbers of Black voters in one district to prevent them from being able to influence the outcome in other districts.

Gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries to create partisan advantaged districts. To better understand gerrymandering and its history, see  Many candidates, Black and White, that were successful in this month’s primaries won in districts especially designed to give a partisan advantage to the Democrat or Republican parties.

I trust that readers are asking what if anything is wrong with the scenario above.  Well, every 10 years state legislatures have the responsibility of drawing legal legislative districts.  During the last redistricting, the Republicans drew the current districts and they drew them to dilute Black voting strength and to expand Republican control of the General Assembly.

In North Carolina, redistricting is treated like any other piece of legislation, and passed to the General Assembly. These bills are first introduced through committees in their respective houses before being debated, amended, and finally ratified by the legislature. Unlike normal legislation, however, redistricting plans are not subject to the Governor’s veto, but must be approved by the US Justice Department. As in other states, legislators are bound by various constraints including the state constitution and the Voting Rights Act to consider several factors within their deliberations. These include: equal population, consideration of minorities, contiguity, and minimizing divided counties.  See

I hope that you’re now asking, how they did it and how that amounted to diluting Black voting strength.  I’m going to try to give a simple example that I hope will clarify this question.  Remember that “one man one vote” is the law of the land.  I hope someone will give an example that’s better than my crude attempt.  Suppose you have 200 voters, 100 Democrats and 100 Republicans.  You are going to apportion them to represent four districts.  Ideally that’s 50 votes per district, twenty democrats and twenty five republicans.  Suppose your first district is 40 Black Democrats and 10 Republicans.  That leaves 60 democrats and ninety republicans for the remaining three districts.  Let’s say that the remaining three districts are each 30 republicans and 20 democrats each.  The example above shows how each party can start out with the same number of votes and the majority party can end up with three seats to one for the minority party.  Pack Black voters in one district and they have little to no influence in the remaining three.  This is a very simple example of what happened when the Republican Party expanded their control of the NC General Assembly two years ago.  The Moral Monday Movement grew out of the response to this situation.

Now if you view the successes that Black candidates had in the recent primaries with an understanding of gerrymandering, you will know that even with those successes, the Republicans are likely to remain in full control of the General Assembly.  This means that round two of voter suppression and many other right-wing initiatives are on the agenda for the limited legislative “Short-Session” now in progress and the “Regular-Session” starting in January, 2015.

The gerrymandering of 2011 and the Voter Suppression Act of 2013 means that all out war has been declared on minority voters and voting rights and that our response is in your hands.

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Peter Grear, Esq. writes for Greater Diversity News with a primary focus on voter suppression.  To join the campaign to defeat voter suppression please “Like” and follow us at, “Share” our articles, and your ideas and comments on Facebook or at our website  Also, to promote the campaign to defeat voter suppression, please ask all of your Facebook “Friends” to follow the above-referenced recommendations. Additionally, please follow us on Twitter at @yourrighttovote: (