Lawsuit challenges new Wake Board of Ed districts
Posted August 22, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — A coalition of citizens and community groups filed a lawsuit Thursday afternoon, challenging a new state law which redrew the district boundaries for the Wake County Board of Education.
The law redistributes the school board's nine seats over seven individual districts and two regional "super-districts" – an outer ring that covers the county's more rural areas and an urban district taking in most of Raleigh and Cary.
Plaintiffs allege that the population of the new districts is unbalanced, devaluing the votes of those who live in more populous districts.
“My vote is no less important than any other Wake County voter,” said Calla Wright, a Raleigh resident and president of Concerned Citizens for African American Children.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed the suit on behalf of 13 individuals and two community groups.
“The federal courts have made clear that favoring rural voters over urban voters, or favoring one political party over another are not legitimate justifications for deviations from the one-person, one-vote principle. This plan is unbalanced and unfair to Wake County voters,” said Anita Earls, executive director of the coalition.
Plaintiff Amy Womble argued that the change would benefit candidates likely to change, again, the student assignment plan that distributes students across the countywide public school system.
The Wake County Board of Education has swung from Democratic control to a Republican majority and back again in the past five years, which each change prompting another look at student assignment.
New districts would make another upheaval partisan shift a possibility, a concern for plaintiff Amy Womble.
“Our children are more important than partisan political victories,” Womble said. “This redistricting plan was designed to change the makeup of the Wake County School Board to include members who would return to policies of re-segregation and undermining of public education."
The changes are not set to take effect until 2016, and all nine board seats would be up for grabs at that time. Four seats – representing districts 1, 2, 7 and 9 – are on the ballot this fall. The winners would serve a modified three-year term before the new law takes effect.