Lawsuit Challenges North Carolina’s 2024 Primary Elections: Allegations of Racial Gerrymandering Sparks Controversy

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — A federal judge is set to weigh arguments in a lawsuit that could disrupt the 2024 primary elections in North Carolina. The case revolves around two state Senate districts in Northeastern North Carolina, where black voters are claiming that GOP leaders engaged in racial gerrymandering.

The lawsuit asserts that the newly drawn districts were deliberately divided in a way that dilutes the political influence of black voters in the upcoming elections. The plaintiffs are seeking a temporary halt to the elections in these districts. The Northeastern region of the state is home to numerous majority-black rural counties.

Republicans have denied using racial data to redraw voting districts and argue that doing so would violate the federal Voting Rights Act. In contrast, Democrats argue that racial data should have been utilized to prevent discrimination against black voters.

The outcome of the lawsuit is crucial, as Republicans currently hold a veto-proof supermajority in the Senate, achieved by just one vote. If the plaintiffs succeed, Democrats could potentially gain one of the disputed seats.

This legal battle stems from the redrawing of all the state’s legislative districts and U.S. House seats by Republican state lawmakers. Earlier maps drawn in 2021 were deemed unconstitutional, prompting the creation of new maps. However, the legality of these new maps is also being challenged in several lawsuits, including the one being heard today.

One central question that remains unanswered is the possible consequence of a finding that GOP lawmakers engaged in racial gerrymandering. The challengers propose a solution by swapping counties between the two districts, thereby creating a single district with a high concentration of black voters. Republican leaders, however, argue that such an adjustment might not be legal and could necessitate the redrawing of multiple, if not all, of the state’s 50 Senate districts.

Federal law requires that congressional districts have identical populations, while state law permits variation in population for legislative seats. GOP leaders contend that redrawing the two disputed districts would require them to create new county groupings in eastern North Carolina, potentially affecting the rest of the state.

The decision of the judge, James Dever, who was appointed by George W. Bush, is crucial. He must first determine whether the two districts in question demonstrate racial gerrymandering and, if so, decide on the appropriate course of action. A ruling could be issued today, but it is not guaranteed.

Last year, Republican state lawmakers achieved a preliminary victory when Dever declined to expedite the case before the start of candidate filing in early December.

If successful, the lawsuit could lead to a halt in the elections and potentially force a redraw of all 50 Senate districts, with significant implications for the state’s political landscape.