U.S. District Judge James Dever III denied a court order Friday that would have blocked elections from proceeding in two North Carolina Senate districts due to claims of racial gerrymandering.
Plaintiffs Rodney Pierce and Moses Matthews argued that Districts 1 and 2 in the new map for the 2024 North Carolina elections were gerrymandered to reduce Black voters’ power, which violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The suit states that “voting in the region is also highly polarized along racial lines — Black voters there are politically cohesive, but white voters vote sufficiently as a bloc to usually defeat minority candidates of choice.”
Edwin Speas, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, stated that the plaintiffs were placed in districts that did not allow them to elect their preferred candidates.
The North Carolina General Assembly passed the new map last year. Two lawsuits were filed in response by 18 Black and Latino voters as well as various voting rights groups sued in federal court, arguing that the maps constituted racial gerrymandering.
The maps could give Republicans 10 or 11 of the 14 seats in the State Congress and a supermajority in the General Assembly.
If the plaintiffs had won their case, the North Carolina Board of Elections could have moved elections for the districts mentioned in the suit to May 14 or later to allow additional time for states to prepare ballots and individuals to file their candidacies.
Dever ultimately denied the plaintiff’s injunction, ruling that the Section 2 does not require the General Assembly to create a majority-black Senate district.
“The record demonstrates that when the General Assembly created the Senate districts in North Carolina Senate Bill 758 (“SB 758”) in October 2023 for use in the 2024 elections, the General Assembly did not have racial data in the computer,” Dever wrote.
Dever continued that Article 2 does not compel state lawmakers to “[engage] in race-based districting” or “[create] a racially gerrymandered majority-black Senate district.”
Dever also stated that issuing an injunction and blocking the upcoming elections would violate U.S. Supreme Court case Purcell v. Gonzalez, which ruled that judges should avoid interfering with ongoing elections.
Given this ruling, the 2024 elections will proceed as usual. Senate candidates for Districts 1 and 2 will run on Nov. 5.
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Zoe Spicer is a Trinity junior and a features managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.