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Politics

North Carolina judges weigh attempts to block elections under new maps

Map printouts showing voting districts in Franklin and Wake counties sit on a table during a North Carolina Senate redistricting committee meeting.
Miles Parks
/
NPR
2019 FILE -- Map printouts showing voting districts in Franklin and Wake counties sit on a table during a North Carolina Senate redistricting committee meeting.

Legal attempts to block North Carolina legislative and congressional elections from occurring under district maps approved by state Republicans last month are getting heard by state trial judges.

A three-judge panel in Wake County court began a hearing Friday on two lawsuits.

It's the start of what could be a long legal war over state legislative and congressional districts for the next decade. One suit was filed by the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, the other by the Elias Law Group, a national firm that advocates for Democrats and progressive causes.

They allege Republican lawmakers violated the state Constitution by drawing political boundaries with excessive partisan bias. The suits accuse GOP map-makers of targeting minority communities and Democratic voters by packing them into some districts or by splitting up urban counties.

The plaintiffs want the judges to order a redraw, and have asked the judges to prevent state officials from administering elections with the maps because they say they're extreme partisan gerrymanders. Those elections are set to begin Monday with the start of candidate filing for the March 8 primary.

GOP legislative leaders who back plans the General Assembly passed oppose the preliminary injunctions. They say the boundaries are lawful, created under a transparent process that avoided racial demographic and political data.

Analyses show the recently enacted maps could help Republicans increase their majority in the state legislature and win as many as 11 of 14 congressional seats in a state with a balanced electorate.

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