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Lawsuit seeks to block North Carolina congressional map, alleging it discriminates against minority voters

By Dianne Gallagher, CNN

(CNN) — A group of Black and Latino North Carolina voters has filed a lawsuit against the state’s new congressional map, alleging it “intentionally discriminates against minority voters” and is therefore unconstitutional.

The map, approved by the state’s GOP-led General Assembly in October, favors the GOP in 10 of the state’s 14 House seats and could help the party retain – or potentially grow – their majority in the chamber where they have a slender advantage. Democrats have previously argued that the congressional lines, along with new state legislative maps, seek to unfairly cement GOP power ahead of next year’s consequential state and national elections.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday, states that the map is illegal and a violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments, intentionally drawn to “minimize minority voting strength and dismantle existing minority opportunity districts across the state.” The plaintiffs are asking for a three-judge panel to grant an injunction that would prevent elections from being run under the current map. The suit was filed the same day that the candidate filing period opened for the 2024 election in North Carolina. The candidate filing period ends December 15.

Opponents contend that “race was the predominant factor in the creation” of four congressional districts – 1, 6, 12 and 14 – and must be struck down.

“The 2023 Congressional Plan continues North Carolina’s long tradition of enacting redistricting plans that pack and crack minority voters into gerrymandered districts designed to minimize their voting strength,” the lawsuit states, which was filed by Democratic election attorney Marc Elias’s firm.

Currently, the state’s congressional delegation is split 7-7 between the political parties, under temporary lines imposed by a court that applied only to the 2022 election.

The lawsuit names the legislature’s Republican leadership, GOP heads of the redistricting committees and members of the state’s election board.

One of the named defendants, GOP North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, is running for Congress in the newly drawn 14th District – one of the districts being challenged as a racial gerrymander.

“It has taken Democratic activists over a month after these maps were approved by the General Assembly to concoct these baseless allegations. This is a desperate attempt to throw chaos into North Carolina’s elections, on the first day of candidate filing no less,” Moore said in a statement.

Districts 6 and 14, which cover the Greensboro-area and part of Charlotte respectively, are currently represented by Democrats but likely to flip Republican under the new map.

The 1st District, in the rural northeastern part of the state, is currently represented by Democratic Rep. Don Davis but the new map likely turns the seat into an even more competitive swing district. Davis announced Monday he will run for reelection.

The Charlotte-based 12th District is currently held by a Democrat and expected to remain a favorable seat for the party.

However, the lawsuit notes that the Charlotte-area districts, 12 and 14 “were redrawn in the 2023 Congressional Plan to move reasonably compact minority communities in Mecklenburg County out of CD-14 and into CD-12. The result of this shift is to eliminate a minority-opportunity district in CD-14.”

“By strategically packing and cracking North Carolina’s minority voters, the 2023 Congressional Plan entrenches the state’s White majority and erases the gains made by voters of color in the 2020 and 2022 election cycles,” the lawsuit said.

“(T)he new congressional map enacted by the General Assembly dismantles existing minority opportunity districts, wiping away hard-fought gains made by voters of color in recent elections,” said Elias Law Group partner Abha Khanna, who is representing the plaintiffs.

CNN’s Fredreka Schouten contributed to this report.

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