Civil rights groups file suit against maps

The NAACP, the League of Women Voters, and other groups filed suit today against new redistricting maps, claiming they seek to reduce the political power of minority voters.

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Laura Leslie

The NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Democracy NC, and the Randolph Institute joined 27 individual plaintiffs today in a lawsuit against new GOP-drawn redistricting maps. It's the second suit filed against the maps in 24 hours. 

According to today's lawsuit, the maps seek to reduce the political power of minority voters by lumping them into as few districts as possible, and by dividing their voting precincts into multiple districts, making political organizing and voting more difficult.

At a press conference at the Wake County Courthouse today, state NAACP President Rev. William Barber called the maps "James Crow, Esquire" - a more sophisticated, more nuanced  version of the South's historical "Jim Crow" laws, some of which sought to bar black voters from political participation.

Republican mapmakers say they were following federal law by clustering black voters into certain districts to ensure that they could elect candidates of their choice. They say the law requires them to construct "majority-minority" districts wherever possible, and that the population of those districts must by law be more than 50% minority. 

But critics of the maps say many districts with voting-age populations less than 50% minority were already electing minority candidates. They say adding more black voters to those districts isn't meant to help them elect minority candidates - it's meant to reduce their influence in surrounding areas.

Barber accused the GOP of hiring outside consultants to employ "legal tricks and computer maps to cut out the heart of black political power."   

""Our democracy should look like this," Barber said, clasping the hands of white co-plaintiffs Bob Hall with Democracy NC and Jo Nicholas with the League of Women Voters. "It should not be driven by these ideological, race-based schemes to resegregate voters."

"We will not allow North Carolina to be politically resegregated," Barber said. "We will never go backward, and we shall not be moved." 

Democracy NC's Bob Hall said the new maps target black voters by splitting their precincts up into multiple districts. One third of the state's black voters live in split districts - a far higher percentage than that of white voters. 

"It creates two classes of voters." Hall said. "This is over the top. This is extreme. This is excessive...it's a crazy plan."

Republicans have denied dividing precincts by race, which is illegal in most cases, insisting they split them up along partisan lines instead, which is permissible. 

But Hall said that's not possible, because mapmakers "don't have the data" to show which voters in each precinct voted Democrat or Republican. The State Board of Elections didn't even have that data to give to mapmakers. "They used race as a proxy," Hall said. 

Republicans say the Justice Department's approval of the maps proves they're not violating civil rights. They say they're confident the courts will find they've followed the letter of the law.  

Watch the whole press conference at right.


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