Raleigh, N.C. — A federal lawsuit filed last week brings another challenge to North Carolina's legislative voting districts drawn by Republican lawmakers.
The lawsuit by 27 voters, which comes weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out North Carolina rulings upholding the voting maps, seeks a panel of three federal judges to review the maps and a court order requiring the General Assembly to redraw the districts in time for the 2016 elections.
The North Carolina Supreme Court is expected to revisit the existing maps in August to determine whether the legislature relied too heavily on race when it redrew voting districts following the 2010 census.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March that the Republican-dominated legislature in Alabama illegally packed black voters into too few voting districts in that state. In a 5-4 decision, the justices said a lower court used the wrong test when it upheld legislative districts and determined that race was not the primary motivating factor in drawing boundary lines.
The court then ordered North Carolina courts to take a second look at the state's voting maps in light of the Alabama decision.
The lawsuit challenges nine Senate districts and 19 House districts. Districts in Wake, Durham, Cumberland and other area counties are among those the suit says were improperly drawn.
Republican lawmakers drew the districts first when they constructed the maps to produce districts with majority black voting populations and then drew all other legislative districts around them, according to the lawsuit. The result is oddly-shaped districts that meander through various counties to take in as many black voters as possible.
Before the redistricting, the lawsuit states, North Carolina had 10 House districts and zero Senate districts with majority black voting populations. Under the new maps, 23 House districts and nine Senate districts fall under that heading.
"Race was the predominant factor in the creation of the Challenged Districts," the suit states. "The use of race as the predominant factor with respect to the Challenged Districts is not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. Accordingly, the Challenged Districts violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution."
Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg, and Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, who led the redistricting effort, have said they are confident the maps will pass muster on review.