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Next week, a Raleigh court will hear evidence detailing how North Carolina's flawed 2011 redistricting plan was intentionally designed to harm hundreds of voters, especially those living in minority communities. The League of Women Voters of North Carolina, a plaintiff in the case, has been working overtime to protect and empower voters across the state even in the face of widespread threats including a slew of anti-voter bills introduced in the state legislature.
Despite repeated objections by the League and other partners during the state’s 2011 redistricting process, the state legislature ultimately approved a hyper-partisan map designed to protect incumbents and dilute the influence of voters, especially those living in minority communities. Ever since, the League, the NAACP of North Carolina, Democracy North Carolina, and a group of individually affected voters have been working with legal experts at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice to challenge the plan.
Post-election analysis conducted by Southern Coalition for Social Justice shows that the 2011 redistricting plan placed one in four North Carolina voters into “split precincts” in 2012, leading to widespread confusion about who would be on one’s ballot come Election Day. What’s more, these complex new districts placed a burden on hardworking elections officials, who often struggled to assign voters living in split precincts to the correct districts. Across the state, hundreds of voters assigned to the wrong district are known to have received the wrong ballot on Election Day 2012. Those living in minority communities were particularly hard-hit, with evidence showing lawmakers unconstitutionally segregated voters by race when designing districts.
Given the damage already done by these districts, the plaintiffs are asking the Court to send the state legislature back to the drawing board to craft a better redistricting plan. We hope that they will.
North Carolina’s redistricting woes represent just one example of lawmakers undercutting voters’ access to free, fair and accessible elections. League activists continue to work to undo the harm caused by hyper-partisan, discriminatory, and secretive redistricting decisions made during the 2011 process. Read our comprehensive analysis, “Shining a Light,” including a blueprint for reforming the redistricting process. At the same time, the League is hard at work fighting back against alarming attempts to enact suppressive voter photo ID laws, roll back popular early voting options, and limit the work of voter registration groups in North Carolina and a number of other states.
Given that we know voter participation among underrepresented groups, including Hispanic voters and young people, continued to lag in 2012, it has never been more important to advocate for reforms that work for voters, not against them. We have seen glimmers of hope out of Florida and New York recently and hope other states follow suit.
Cheers to the hardworking team at the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, and to all advocates who are working tirelessly to protect our right to vote.