Raleigh, N.C. — A group of Wake County residents and organizations has asked a federal court to declare newly drawn Board of Commissioners districts invalid.
The suit, which was filed Thursday, responds to state legislation that passed the General Assembly last week that makes several major changes in how Wake County's top leaders are chosen.
"Plaintiffs will suffer immediate and irreparable harm from having to use racially gerrymandered election districts," says the suit, which was brought by the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association and 14 individuals, several of whom are active in Democratic politics.
The new district lines mimic a map lawmakers drew for the Wake County Board of Education two years ago, and the suit is similar to a federal lawsuit that challenged those lines. A federal district court ruled in favor of the new school board maps, but that case is on appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The lawsuit contends that the new District 4 on Raleigh's east side was drawn to pull in as many black voters as possible and that the population in the districts would vary by as much as 9.8 percent, defeating the concept of equal representation.
Under the old rules for choosing county commissioners, the seven members of the board each had to live in geographic districts but were voted on countywide. The new plan would redraw those districts and add two new regional districts, one concentrated in Raleigh's urban core and the other taking in suburban and rural areas of the county. Instead of having a say on all members of the board, voters would select just the two members who represent their local and regional districts.
Backers of the new plan, most notably Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, who is named as one of the defendants, say it will provide more local representation and make sure the county's rural areas have a say in county politics. During legislative debates, opponents of the plan pointed out that it favored Republicans and was presented only after Democrats swept all seven seats on the Board of Commissioners.