For Immediate Release
August 15, 2011
Contact: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, President, 919-394-8137
Mrs. Amina J. Turner, Executive Director, 919-682-4700
Atty. Jennifer W. Marsh, Legal Redress Coordinator, 919-682-4700
State and Local Leaders Gather at Historic St. Paul AME Church to Challenge Redistricting Process
We gather at St. Paul AME Church, founded 163 years ago. Twenty years after the church’s founding, 143 years ago, the Freeman’s Convention met at this church to fight for the rights of African-Americans to vote and be represented in places of power and elect representatives of their choice.
On July 2nd, 47 years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. We stand here 46 years after the enactment of the Voting Rights Act, passed in August of 1965, and we still have to wage a battle for the rights of all people to vote. Using the language of the 15th Amendment, the Act outlaws states from imposing any "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color." It was less than 20 years ago that counties in eastern North Carolina covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act were able to elect an African-American Congressperson. This is not old history.
Today we gather to discuss the proposed voting district plans created by the Republican, ultra-conservative, tea party backed legislators who have taken over the General Assembly.
They passed a proposed set of new voting districts that dramatically alter the political landscape of this state for the next ten years or more. The maps racialize every election and every election district if they are precleared and approved.
In their 2002 book, "The Rise of Southern Republicans" two professors, Dr. Earl Black and his brother, Dr. Merle Black, predicted this racialized strategy. The new Republican strategy is two-fold: make as many Congressional and Legislative seats as possible in White districts while packing Black voters into as many compact segregated districts as possible and then run race-baiting and divisive campaigns.
Taking a page from this playbook, North Carolina’s conservative leadership has created and approved highly polarized, partisan, and gerrymandered maps. These plans create unnecessary racial disparity. We oppose these plans which exploit the Voting Rights Act for partisan advantage. We oppose the process in which these maps were created, which was far from open and transparent. Now we are saddled with a set of plans that are not in the best interest of the people or the state.
Here are a few of the many reasons we are against these plans:
The three state-wide redistricting maps do not allow North Carolinians to elect the representatives that would most closely reflect the political make-up of the state. For example, the Congressional Plan gives Republicans an advantage in 10 of North Carolina’s 13 Congressional districts. Currently there is a 7 to 6 split in our state. This closer divide more accurately reflects the partisan make up of our state. The proposed plan demonstrates its partisan advantage in pairing two Democratic incumbents in the same district for four of our seven Democratic Congressional incumbents. Yet no Republican incumbents are paired under the Congressional plan. The plan also splits 66 precincts and 40 counties, significantly more than necessary to comply with state and federal law.
These maps were designed to limit Black voting strength by packing and stacking Black voters into a few districts. Fifty percent of the entire Black population of North Carolina is confined to just 11 of 50 state Senate districts. Fifty-two percent of the entire Black population of NC is confined to just 27 of 120 state House districts. The plans unnecessarily concentrate minority voters into districts that consistently elect a minority candidate of choice. The plans consequently dilute minority influence in other districts. As we know, none of the current seven African-American members of the state Senate are elected from a district where the Black voting age population exceeds 50 percent.
It was 1992 before District 1, a district largely covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, was able to elect an African-American to the US Congress. The ultra-conservative leaders in Raleigh used the redistricting process as an opportunity to remove 20,000 African Americans living in Section 5 counties from District 1. They were replaced by minorities from more urban areas not covered by Section 5. The voters removed from District 1 will not have political influence necessary to elect the representative of their choice. This action flies in the face of the intent of the Voting Rights Act.
To date North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has not submitted the newly enacted maps for preclearance to the United States Department of Justice or District of Columbia District Court on behalf of the North Carolina Legislature. The conservative leadership of North Carolina has suggested it does not trust North Carolina’s Attorney General or the US Department of Justice.
The conservative leadership is also taking the unnecessary step to file the maps with the DC District Court, instead of the standard process of submitting the maps to the US DOJ alone for preclearance. Their plan is to submit the maps simultaneously to the US Department of Justice and the DC District Court, which has never been done before. They are taking the extra step of submitting the maps to the DC District Court, with its three conservative judges, because they do not trust the Department of Justice under the current administration.
The state-wide redistricting maps are not the only documents that bear the mark of the conservative-led General Assembly. Our representatives also passed bills in 2011 that removed the local redistricting process from the hands of the local officials and citizens. Instead the legislators in Raleigh controlled the process in many localities by passing redistricting plans with no local input. Many counties were stunned by this overreaching process that ultimately ignored their voices. The most recent bill redistricted Mecklenburg, Guilford, Lenoir and Buncombe counties against their wishes.
In the end, the Republican leadership pushed through a series of maps that disrespects the minority vote and creates an unfair advantage for conservative candidates for the next ten years or more. There are ways to create fair and legal maps. Maps that respect the minority vote. Maps that meet the legal requirements of the Voting Rights Act. Our leaders have instead given us redistricting plans that are a return to segregation and racial isolation for partisan advantage.
In 1909, the NAACP was founded and created with the mission to promote civil rights, including securing for them "impartial suffrage" or voting. And, we must declare today here at the beginning of the 21st Century the NAACP must still lead the effort to protect the power, necessity and potential of the Black vote.
Because of the power, necessity and potential of the Black, Brown and Progressive vote, we must fight any attempts to suppress, segregate isolate, or steal the power, necessity, and potential of the Black vote.
Because everything we fight for, equal protection under the law, educational equality, economic justice, access to healthcare, are all directly impacted by voting, we must fight any attempt to suppress, segregate, isolate, or steal the power, necessity, and potential of the black vote!