Raleigh, N.C. — Critics of the state's new GOP-drawn voting maps are asking a special judicial panel to delay the 2012 primary elections, according to court documents filed Friday.
In November, a group of 45 North Carolina residents, including at least eight current and former lawmakers, filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court to have the new maps thrown out.
In Friday’s filing, the group says no election should be held under those maps until judges decide if they are legal.
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.
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.
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.
The primary is scheduled to take place May 8. The panel could decide on the request this week.