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Civil rights groups renew calls to throw out districts

Posted October 5, 2012

Voting map

— Civil rights groups said Friday that voters may have been assigned to the wrong state House and Senate districts due to an "overly greedy" effort to tilt district maps, an assertion elections official questions. 

In a package of motions and briefs filed with the court this week, the NAACP said 222 voters across the state cast ballots in one legislative May primary race when they should have been assigned to another.

"That's an effective disenfranchisement," said Anita Earls, a lawyer for a coalition of civil rights groups challenging the maps.

Republican lawmakers took control of both the state House and Senate following the 2010 elections. The majority shift meant the GOP had the power to remake legislative maps when new U.S. Census information was published in 2011. 

Two cases seeking to have state courts throw out the maps were filed in 2011. They have since been combined, and one issue, involving open records, is already on appeal to the state Supreme Court.

However the case turns out, voters will go to the polls using the current districts this year.

Republican lawmakers insist they closely followed state and federal laws in laying out the maps.

"I'm very confident that the plans than we drew are in compliance with the law," said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, who helped lead the redistricting process. Lewis said he had not heard about anyone being assigned to the wrong legislative district.

"I'm confident that the people who reside withing the districts that were drawn will be the ones who vote in those districts," Lewis said. 

Earls contends that the new lines are needlessly complicated, drawn to pack minority voters in some districts while "bleaching" others. The idea, the NAACP claims in its legal briefs, is to break up coalitions of blacks and liberal white voters who work to elect Democrats.

Lewis said that's not the case. Throughout the lawsuit, lawyers for the state have asserted that federal laws forced them to ensure that many voting districts contained a majority African-American population.

"Race was only used to the extent that it was required by law in the federal Voting Rights Act," Lewis said. 

In court filings, the NAACP's lawyers contend that mapmakers split precincts in order to tightly box in minority populations. Of the 2,056 wrongly assigned voters they found in  Durham, Richmond, Robeson, Wake, Wayne and Wilson counties, 97 percent were in split precincts. 

Gary Simms, deputy director of the Wake County Board of Elections, say he knew of no such problems with Wake County's current voter rolls.

"The calls we get are not 'You've got me in the wrong district,' but rather, 'Can you help me figure out what district I'm in?'"  he said.

Simms said the State Board of Elections helped counties reassign voters to their new districts.

Gary Bartlett, director of the state board of elections, said the NAACP's court documents did not provide enough detail to say whether there is a problem or not. 

"We have not received the first complaint from a voter, candidate or party that a voter was given the wrong ballot in these races in the May primary," Bartlett said in an e-mail. "We have worked with the counties to assure the voters are correctly assigned."

22 Comments

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  • belovedsparrow Oct 8, 11:30 a.m.

    Same kind of old Racist junk that the NAACP is always spouting. I'm with busyb97. The NAACP is no better than the KKK.

  • homefree Oct 8, 9:25 a.m.

    This kinda race motivated story does not help anyone. One day our AA community will figure how much these clowns are holding them back. Some already have.

  • PanthersFan45 Oct 5, 7:39 p.m.

    "That's an effective disenfranchisement," said Anita Earls, a lawyer for a coalition of civil rights groups challenging the maps

    Don't worry Anita, most polls across this country show a 98-2% advantage for Obama among african-american voters for Obama and they came out strong for him last time. He's on the ballot again, I don't think they will be "disenfranchised" by a something as paultry as a redrawn ditrict. You're argument only holds weight if they don't show up, but I'm betting they do.

  • jdupree Oct 5, 7:13 p.m.

    If you don'tlike the schools, the neighborhood or the voter district, move to one you like. That's what everyone who is motivated does!

  • busyb97 Oct 5, 6:43 p.m.

    The KKK is about as helpful for the whites s the NAACP is helpful to blacks. The do more to keep racism alive, the. Encourage equality.

    Why just get rid of districts and go COUNTY line? No redrawing available there.

  • Sherlock Oct 5, 6:12 p.m.

    What are they unhappy about, we do not have voter ID so they can vote were every they want as many times as they wish.

  • josephlawrence43 Oct 5, 5:54 p.m.

    Is this the same NAACP that asked the United Nations to investigate the electoral process in the United States and the fact that convicted felons are sometimes denied the right to vote. And this action regarding the districts in North Carolina rates right up there along with the absolutely no brained request to the UN....

  • warbirdlover Oct 5, 5:52 p.m.

    Bubba, the new Republican Congress is a total joke. Fracking, Education Funding and the fear of Gay folks. They need to quit spouting Bible quotes and quit filling their pockets with Gas company's money, and hire teachers and pay them a decent wage.

  • Tax Man Oct 5, 5:43 p.m.

    How about we just dump all districts and each voter gets one vote for all of the offices throughout the entire state? Of course our ballot would be three hundred pages long and you would have to spend a lot of money to get to the voters throughout the entire state. These NAACP folks just need to knock this stuff off - hopefully they will lose and have to pay all the costs of the litigation including the attorney fees for the state and legislature. Maybe we could just bankrupt them and help them go the way of the Occupy crowd. Sure glad it won't impact this year's election!

  • NCHighlander Oct 5, 5:39 p.m.

    A high 5 to WRAL's moderators for allowing this discussion here. The N&O are kicking folks off their entire blogs for saying what is being said here. Good job folks.

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