A group of 45 North Carolina residents has filed the first lawsuit against the new GOP-authored redistricting maps in Wake County Superior Court.
The plaintiffs are people from all over the state, from New Bern to Asheville, including at least 8 current and former lawmakers. The North Carolina Democratic Party is not listed among the plaintiffs. The lead attorney is Eddie Speas, former general counsel to Gov. Bev Perdue. He returned to private practice earlier this year.
Lead plaintiff in the case is former Democratic lawmaker Margaret Dickson. She served four terms in the state House before being appointed to the Senate in 2010 to represent the 21st District (Bladen and Cumberland counties). She was defeated in the 2010 by Republican Wesley Meredith.
"I made the decision to support and participate in this effort because of the harm that the redistricting plan passed by the General Assembly could do to my community," Dickson said. "These maps deliberately target the women serving in the legislature and they divide and resegregate our communities. Here in my own neighborhood in Cumberland County, our precinct has been split so badly that I am not even in the same district as my neighbors across the street."
Other legislative plaintiffs include Democratic Sen. Linda Garrou, who was drawn out of her Forsyth County district; Guilford Democrats Senator Don Vaughn and Rep. Alma Adams; Democratic Charlotte Rep. Rodney Moore; former Democratic Rep. Alice Graham Underhill, also defeated in 2010; former House Democratic leader Phil Baddour; and former Democratic Congressmen Bob Etheridge and Tim Valentine.
Defendants in the suit are Republican lawmakers Senate Redistricting Chair Bob Rucho, House co-chairs David Lewis, Nelson Dollar and Jerry Dockham, Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis, along with the State Board of Elections and the state itself.
"I’m very confident that, as we did with the Justice Department, we’re going to be vindicated - that we drew fair and legal maps and we followed the letter of the law, and we will win," Rucho said.
The lawsuit addresses all three new maps – House, Senate and congressional.
According to the lawsuit, the maps are flawed in three ways.
First, plaintiffs say, the new districts split more counties than is necessary, which they say is a violation of the state constitution as affirmed by a previous North Carolina Supreme Court ruling in a 2002 redistricting case, Stephenson v. Bartlett.
Second, they split too many precincts. According to the lawsuit, the House map splits 395 voting precincts, containing 1.86 million citizens, which amounts to 19.5 percent of the state’s entire population. The Senate maps splits 257 precincts, containing 1.33 million people. Alternative plans submitted by Democrats would have split only 129 precincts in the House and six in the Senate.
Third, the lawsuit says, the new maps “pack” higher numbers of minority voters into some districts to reduce their influence in surrounding areas. According to the plaintiffs, more than half the state’s African-American voters are packed into just three of the state’s 13 congressional districts, 10 of the 50 Senate districts and 25 of the 120 House districts.
Republican mapmakers say the Voting Rights Act requires them to create “majority-minority” districts (over 50 percent) wherever possible as a way to ensure minority voters can elect the candidate they choose. But Democrats say Republicans have twisted the intent of the law by adding minority voters to districts that already typically elect minority representation.
Most districts have at least two of the three problems above, the lawsuit contends.
The NAACP has said it will file its own lawsuit against the maps Friday morning. We'll have coverage here.