Raleigh, N.C. — The state chapter of the NAACP called on federal judges Monday to throw out the map of North Carolina's 13 U.S. House districts that lawmakers approved last week, along with the five-year-old map of state legislative districts.
The congressional map is back before a three-judge panel that ruled on Feb. 5 that lawmakers relied too heavily on the race of voters in 2011 when they set the boundaries for the 1st Congressional District and the 12th Congressional District.
The voters who challenged those two districts have asked the judges to decide by March 18 whether the new map passes muster, but NAACP officials said the judges ought to draw a map themselves, as another panel of judges did recently in Virginia.
NAACP officials said the new map still 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."
NAACP attorney Irving Joyner said the U.S. Supreme Court's denial of a stay of the judges' decision made him optimistic.
"The fact that no justices on the court issued a dissenting opinion gives us real hope that the Supreme Court is tired of these cases coming from North Carolina that are constructed for the sole purpose of undermining the voting strength of African-Americans," Joyner said.
He said the NAACP will petition the Supreme Court to combine all of the state's redistricting cases, including a challenge to state House and Senate districts, which he said are also unconstitutional.
"The same logic, the same justifications that the General Assembly used to draw the congressional districts was the exact same thing that they used to draw the legislative districts," he said. "We need a decision as soon as possible."
The lawsuit challenging the legislative districts is scheduled to be heard by federal judges in April.
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.
Barber urged the courts to resolve the matter quickly, noting that the state has already had two elections in the unconstitutional districts.