Groups appeal dismissal of lawsuit against new Wake County school board lines

Posted by T. Keung Hui on April 7, 2014 

UPDATED TO FIX BROKEN LINKS.

Groups attempting to overturn the new Wake County school board election maps are appealing the decision of a federal judge to throw out their lawsuit.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice announced today that it’s appealing the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle on the grounds that the lines drawn up last year by the Republican-led General Assembly “has the effect of unconstitutionally devaluing the vote of urban Raleigh residents in electing members to the Wake County School Board.” The appellants are supporters of the school board’s Democratic majority who have argued the new lines disfavor progressive candidates.

At issue is how the new lines would result in a 9.8 percent population variance between two newly created super-regional districts, one representing the suburbs and the other the older parts of Raleigh. Voters would pick board members from one of the regional districts and the district where they live.

Boyle didn’t find the imbalance in his ruling to be significant, but the appellants disagree.

The Fourth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals is generally considered to be more conservative than the other circuits.

Here’s the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WAKE COUNTY, NC – Today the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, on behalf of thirteen Wake County citizens and two community organizations, appealed the decision of Judge Terrence W. Boyle dismissing their challenge to the North Carolina General Assembly’s unjustified redistricting of Wake County Board of Education districts. The new law has the effect of unconstitutionally devaluing the vote of urban Raleigh residents in electing members to the Wake County School Board.

The named appellants are Wake County voters who allege the North Carolina General Assembly violated the one-person, one-vote requirements of the United States and North Carolina Constitutions. Specifically, the diverse group contends that the legislature over-populated their newly drawn Wake County School Board districts, thus weakening their vote in contrast to voters in adjacent Wake County districts.

“The vote of an urban Raleigh resident should be just as powerful as the vote of a rural Wake County resident,” said former Wake County School Board member Beverley Clark. “Districts that are so uneven mean that some voters’ ballots carry more weight than others. We brought this appeal to ensure that the Constitutional standard of one-person, one-vote is respected in Wake County.”

A voter’s influence is measured by the relative weight of their vote to others voting in the same election. Creating an overpopulated district simultaneously results in one or more under-populated adjacent districts. In this case, urban districts are overpopulated and thus diluted in comparison to adjacent rural districts. Voters in the overpopulated districts are harmed because their vote carries less strength than those in the under-populated districts.

“The federal courts have made clear that favoring rural voters over urban voters, or favoring one political party over another are not legitimate justifications for deviations from the one-person, one-vote principle,” said Anita Earls, Executive Director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “This case is not a partisan gerrymandering claim – it is a one-person, one-vote claim that must be taken seriously by all Wake County residents interested in fair elections.”

The case is Wright, et al. v. State of North Carolina et al., US Dist. Court, Eastern District No. 5:13-cv-607. Judge Boyle’s order dismissing the case was issued on March 17, 2014.

View the history of this case.

View this press release online.

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