A coalition of voters filed the first legal challenge of the new Republican-drawn voting maps Thursday.
Attorney Edwin Speas, a former general counsel to Gov. Bev Perdue, filed the 113-page lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court on behalf of 44 voters who live in districts affected by the new boundary lines. The plaintiffs include well-known figures such as state Sen. Linda Garrou, former Congressmen Bob Etheridge and Tim Valentine and a number of other former Democratic legislators. Former state Sen. Margaret Dickson is the lead plaintiff.
The lawsuit challenges the maps on three main grounds: split precincts, split counties and the packing of minority voters. It asks a judge to declare the maps unconstitutional and void for the 2012 election. (Read more background here.)
“The Republicans in the General Assembly who drew these maps came up with a plan that re-segregates North Carolina as much as possible and then hid behind federal law to justify it,” Democratic lawmakers said in a joint statement issued by state Sen. Martin Nesbitt and Rep. Joe Hackney.
The case will go to a three-judge panel comprised of judges from across the state. An appeal -- almost certain regardless of the outcome from the lower court -- would go immediately to the N.C. Supreme Court.
The maps received preclearance from the Obama administration's Department of Justice earlier this week, meaning they are now law. But the lawsuit will question components of the maps not touched by the DOJ in its limited review.
In filing the lawsuit, Democrats issued a press release that highlighted these statistics: the state House redistricting plan divides 49 of North Carolina’s 100 counties, while the state senate plan splits 19 counties, despite provisions in the N.C. Constitution requiring counties to remain whole to the greatest extent possible. Forty counties were arbitrarily split in the congressional map. Additionally, 395 precincts (containing nearly 1.9 million people) at the state House level and 257 precincts (containing 1.3 million people) at the state Senate level were split. This splitting of precincts often leads to voter confusion, lower voter turnout and higher election costs.
"They have cut up counties, communities, and even hundreds of voting precincts so that as much as possible they can limit the number of districts where African-American voters can influence elections. This lawsuit asks the courts to remedy their egregious overreach and require a plan that is fair to all of the voters in the state," Hackney and Nesbitt said in a statement.