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'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Ahead of North Carolina primary elections, federal judge upholds embattled senate district maps

Racial gerrymandering claims rebuffed in victory for N.C. Republicans
The Pierce lawsuit specifically challenged districts drawn in the state’s ‘Black Belt’ region. (Courtesy of NCLEG.org)

On Friday, Jan. 26th, Judge James Dever III upheld North Carolina’s new state Senate district maps after a lawsuit filed last November alleged they were racially gerrymandered. 

The suit, brought by two Black North Carolina residents, Rodney Pierce and Moses Matthews, claimed the Republican-led state legislature failed to create sufficient majority-minority districts in the Northeastern part of the state. The plaintiffs predicted that the new state Senate district lines would dilute their vote and violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). 

The plaintiffs advocated for the creation of two minority-majority districts in North Carolina’s historic “Black Belt” region. Such districts, they argued, would be non-destructive to the rest of the map. 

However, Judge Dever, a federal appointee of former President George W. Bush, ruled that the maps did not infringe on the VRA because the North Carolina legislature wasn’t required to create majority-Black districts in the first place. This is in part because recent litigation has found a lack of racial polarization in North Carolina voting patterns. 

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“Section 2 does not require the General Assembly to employ ‘race-based districting’ unless the General Assembly has ‘a strong basis in evidence for concluding that’ Section 2 required such race-based districting,” Dever said in his nearly 70-page order. 

Dever also cited the ongoing primary season as cause to keep the maps as is, not wanting to create “chaos” among voters. However, the plaintiffs had earlier moved to have the challenge heard before the 2024 candidate filing deadline — a motion that was denied in November. 

The impact of the maps has already been felt in the Triad, as current Greensboro Representative Kathy Manning announced in December she would not be seeking re-election, citing that new maps would’ve made her seat virtually impossible to win again. 

Remarkably, and not coincidentally, the newly drawn Sixth District gives a 16-point advantage to a Republican candidate over a Democratic candidate,” Manning said in a statement in December. 

She continued: “As a Greensboro resident of 40 years, I am disgusted by the callous disregard of Republican leaders for the citizens of my district. Politicians should not choose their voters; voters should choose their representatives.”

Since its initial filing, the Pierce suit has been followed by a number of similar challenges. In December, a significant coalition of 18 Black and Latino plaintiffs challenged the congressional district maps, specifically citing Manning’s sixth district as a cut and dry case of racial gerrymandering. However, none of these 18 sought the same expedited remedy as Pierce and Matthews, as in preventing the maps from being used in the upcoming election. 

Pierce, Matthews and their attorneys wasted no time in filing an appeal, which will be heard by the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The North Carolina primary elections will be on March 5, 2024.

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About the Contributor
James Watson
James Watson, Arts & Culture Editor
James Watson is a sophomore from Wilmington, N.C. who plans on majoring in politics and international affairs and minoring in classical studies. Outside of OGB, James is heavily involved in state and local politics and the director of Deacs Decide on campus. A host on Wake Radio, James loves the sound of his own voice. He is also a serial tweeter.

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