RALEIGH — Critics of a new congressional map say the General Assembly needs to go back to the drawing board.
State Rep. Garland Pierce is one of those arguing that the replacement map disregards a judicial panel’s ruling and creates massive partisan gerrymandering instead.
“The congressional district map should be drawn in a constitutional manner that fairly represents the voters of North Carolina,” Pierce said. “Every citizen deserves an equal voice in our democracy without unlawfully packing minorities within their district’s boundary for political gain.”
A three-judge panel ruled on Feb. 5, that two of North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts — the 1st and the 12th — were racially gerrymandered — that is drawn to unconstitutionally pack black voters in the districts.
Republican legislative leaders then drew revised congressional maps after that court ruling. As a result, there are now two primary dates — June 7 for the congressional elections and the previously scheduled March 15 for all other races.
The new map shift Scotland, Richmond and Anson counties from the 8th Congressional District currently represented by Richard Hudson, R-Concord, to the 9th District, whose congressman is Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-Charlotte.
Lawyers for voters in the 1st and 12th Districts filed in federal court their objections to boundaries drawn by the Republican-led General Assembly on Feb. 19. The attorneys wrote that mapmakers failed to consider racial demographics at all. They want the judges to reject the new map and draw the boundaries. State attorneys have until Monday to respond to those objections.
Several black groups have also voiced opposition to the new map, including the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus and the state NAACP.
Pierce, a Wagram Democrat, who serves as caucus chairman, said the redrawn congressional district maps are unconstitutional and place black voters at a disadvantage.
“The enacted criteria do not comply with the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 or basic fairness,” Pierce said.
The caucus said drawing districts “that do not protect the voting interest of African-American communities” violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“To concentrate black voters into districts that dilute their voting strength is a violation of the law,” the NCLBC said in its release. “In Harris v. McCrory, the court state that race should not be the predominant factor in drawing the districts. However, the courts did not say race should not be a factor at all.”
The North Carolina NAACP said the new map disproportionately packs minority voters across North Carolina into three congressional districts, even though lawmakers used only the results of recent elections – not the race of voters – to draw the map.
“You can, in fact, use partisanism as a cover for another racial agenda,” said Rev. William Barber, state NAACP president. “They have abused the Voting Rights Act 50 years after its signing, and we believe it is a great travesty.”
But North Carolina Republican Party director Dallas Woodhouse said the new congressional map complies fully with the judges’ instructions and should be upheld.
“Unfortunately, it appears the NAACP wants to inject race back into congressional map drawing and wants to do so for the purpose of electing Democrats and no other purpose whatsoever,” Woodhouse said in a statement.
A lawsuit challenging the legislative districts is scheduled to be heard by federal judges in April.