by Dr. Andy Jackson
Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity, John Locke Foundation
We already know that there will be lawsuits over any district maps the General Assembly passes. However, a couple of the usual lawsuit suspects, the North Carolina NAACP and Common Cause are suing over North Carolina’s district maps before the General Assembly has passed any:
The North Carolina NAACP, Common Cause and four individuals filed a lawsuit i n Wake County court challenging the legislators’ refusal to consider racial data or evaluate the presence of racially polarized voting in the state before considering map proposals. Avoiding such activity means it’s impossible to follow the state constitution and the legal recipe set by the state Supreme Court in the 2000s to make sure House and Senate districts comply with the U.S. Voting Rights Act, according to the lawsuit.
However, the same article also notes that racial data was not used in recent district maps that courts have approved:
[Republicans] argue that maps drawn in the late 2010s that courts signed off on didn’t use such data, and that judges have found there isn’t enough voting polarization by race to be necessary to review.
“We did not look at race, and the courts did not criticize us for that,” said Sen. Paul Newton, a Cabarrus County Republican and co-chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee, in a recent interview. “So as we walk now into 2021, why would we do anything different?”
There is also another factor to consider. If the legislature used racial data to draw districts that they otherwise would not draw, then race is the predominant factor in the drawing of those districts. The United States Supreme Court ruled in Cooper v. Harris that the legislature could not do that. In overturning the North Carolina 1st and 12th congressional districts, the court noted that “racial considerations predominated in designing both [congressional] District 1 and District 12.” So, if the legislature was compelled to use racial data to draw maps they would not be able to defend those maps against charges that racial considerations predominated in designing them.
So this lawsuit, if successful would set the General Assembly up for future lawsuits over claims that they use racial data to draw districts.