Another legal challenge has been filed against the 2011 redrawing of North Carolina’s legislative districts.
Twenty-seven voters filed a lawsuit earlier this month in the U.S. Middle District of North Carolina, a region that spans from Durham to Winston-Salem.
The plaintiffs are challenging the shape of nine state Senate districts and 19 state House districts, calling them racial gerrymanders designed to weaken the influence of African-American voters.
The Senate districts are in Cumberland, Durham, Forsyth, Granville, Greene, Guilford, Halifax, Hoke, Lenoir, Mecklenburg, Nash, Pitt, Vance, Wake, Warren, Wayne and Wilson counties.
The House districts are in Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Greene, Guilford, Hoke, Lenoir, Mecklenburg, Nash, Pasquotank, Pitt, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Wake, Wayne and Wilson counties.
Similar lawsuits have been filed challenging the redistricting led by the Republican-controlled legislature after the 2010 census.
Republicans contend the maps were drawn within the bounds of the law, attempting to balance U.S. Voting Rights Act requirements while also strengthening political chances for the party – a goal allowed by the courts.
Race cannot be the only factor in shaping a district. The lawsuit filed last week in federal court, similar to one awaiting a second review by the N.C. Supreme Court, contends that lines were drawn to pack black voters into districts that diluted their power in others.
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court said Alabama relied too heavily on race in drawing its districts. Based on that ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court sent a similar lawsuit in North Carolina back to the state’s highest court for further review.
This lawsuit filed last week in federal court was spurred by the Alabama ruling, according to a spokesman for the plaintiffs. They are asking that a panel of three federal judges review the case and issue a ruling in time for new districts to be drawn before the 2016 elections.
Black voters in North Carolina typically vote for Democrats.
Since the drawing of the 2011 maps, Republicans have expanded their majority in the General Assembly.