In North Carolina v. Covington, the U.S. District Court unanimously ruled that Republican lawmakers violated the 14th Amendment by illegally packing large percentages of black voters into nine senate and nineteen house districts when they drew the current NC legislative maps in 2011.
The case was confirmed by the U.S Supreme Court in June, and the same Republican legislature that drew these illegal maps was ordered to draw new maps that did not heavily concentrate black voters in districts beyond what was necessary to ensure that a black candidate would have a reasonable chance to be elected (as required by the Voting Rights Act). Yet the NC GOP has continued to pack too many black voters into a number of districts in their proposed maps – while claiming that they used only political party (and not race) to determine where to draw district lines.
Below are several stark examples of the continued racial gerrymandering in the GOP’s proposed maps. There are many others.
In Guilford County, House District 57 and Senate District 28 were clearly drawn directly along precinct lines that sharply divide majority-black and majority-white neighborhoods. The resulting voting age populations of proposed HD57 and SD28 are 61% black and 50% black, respectively – both well above the fraction required to ensure that a black legislative candidate would have a reasonable chance win.
Senate District 21, which includes all of Hoke County and a part of Cumberland County, was also obviously drawn to concentrate black voters. An arm of the district was drawn around Fayetteville with “surgical precision” to include all the predominantly black precincts while excluding the predominantly white ones. The proposed SD 21 has a voting age population that is 48% black – again well above the percentage needed to meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.
What’s happened here is clear. Rather than fix the illegal maps as they have been ordered, the Republican legislature thinks it has found a clever way to skirt the law. By pretending not to use race, they hope to continue to pack black voters into districts for partisan advantage. But when race and political party are so integrally linked, using political party to draw districts is the same as using race. The Courts have recognized this in previous cases and should not let the Republican legislature get away with this completely contemptuous and disingenuous argument this time.
Republicans in the NCGA have been given more than enough chances to do the right thing. The solution to this mess is simple. We need an independent special master to draw fair maps once and for all.