Voting Rights Advocates Celebrate as NC Court Strikes Down Gerrymandered District Map

by September 4, 2019

North Carolina voters rallied to end gerrymandering outside the Supreme Court on March 26, 2019, as the Justices heard a case on redistricting. (Photo: Victoria Pickering/Flickr/cc)

State officials have two weeks to redraw North Carolina’s district map following a unanimous ruling Tuesday by a state court which found that Republicans in the state were guilty of partisan gerrymandering.

Wake County Superior Court ruled 3-0 that the state’s map was unconstitutional and must be redrawn immediately—in time for the 2020 elections.

The case was brought by the watchdog group Common Cause after Republicans in the State Assembly drew the map, giving more political power to the voters likely to support them.

Common Cause applauded the judges’ decision, calling it a “truly historic win” for democracy in the state.

“The court has made clear that partisan gerrymandering violates our state’s constitution and is unacceptable,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. “Thanks to the court’s landmark decision, politicians in Raleigh will no longer be able to rig our elections through partisan gerrymandering.”

Other voting rights advocates praised the decision, which came after grassroots campaigning and numerous rallies called for fair district maps for the state.

As the Charlotte Observer reported last week, the current district maps—which were drawn in 2016 and 2017—divide the predominantly black campus of North Carolina A&T State University in half and separate many black voters in Wilmington, North Carolina from their white neighbors:

“Today, all of Wilmington and the rest of New Hanover County are in a single state Senate district, except for a heavily African-American area just south of downtown. Those homes were carved out and placed into a different district, which is mostly made up of suburbs, beach towns and rural farming communitiesin Bladen, Brunswick, and Pender counties.”

If communities weren’t divided up according to which voters were more likely to vote for the Republicans who control both houses of the state legislature, North Carolina A&T student Love Caesar told the Observer, “our voice could be really powerful. We could send shock waves with our votes here.”

Voting rights advocates expressed hope on Tuesday that the newly-ordered district maps would allow the priorities of North Carolina voters to be better represented in the 2020 elections.

“We will watchdog this process to ensure that the legislature draws fair maps and the process is transparent,” Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause said. “In other states the fight will go on in state courts, in legislatures, and through ballot initiatives to ensure every voter across this country has a voice at the polls.”

“Common Cause will be relentless in continuing our fight to end partisan gerrymandering once and for all,” she added.

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