Federal Judge Overturns Legislature’s Greensboro Redistricting Scheme

GREENSBORO, N.C. – A judge in the Middle District of North Carolina has found that the 2015 legislative redistricting of the Greensboro City Council districts was unconstitutional. Individual Plaintiffs represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice challenged the maps on the grounds that the redistricting scheme:

  • Violated the “one person, one vote” doctrine by packing voters into certain districts and diluting their voting power;
  • Racially gerrymandered one city council district; and,
  • Treated Greensboro voters differently from voters in all other North Carolina communities by prohibiting voters from changing the city’s method of election by petition and referendum.   On this claim, the City of Greensboro also was a Plaintiff, represented by the Brooks Pierce law firm.

On April 3, federal District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles ruled that prohibiting a referendum was unconstitutional. Further, she held that “the Act largely ignored legitimate redistricting criteria along the way to achieving a partisan goal.”  Because, as Judge Eagles wrote, “[t]he United States Constitution does not allow an electoral system which makes one person’s vote more powerful than another’s,” the entire redistricting plan is unconstitutional.  As a result of the decision, Greensboro will keep its current districts and voting structure.
A PDF of the court’s opinion can be found at http://bit.ly/GreensboroRedistricting.
After the ruling, Allison Riggs, Senior Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and lead attorney on the case for the individual Plaintiffs, issued the following statement:
“We are pleased that the court recognized the wrong that would have been done to the City of Greensboro and its residents if this redistricting scheme were allowed to go into effect. We can debate policies and practices, but there are certain rights that should never be denied to anyone in America. One of those is the right to have everyone’s vote have the same weight.
“When the legislature overreached into local politics, it did so with no regard for respecting the people’s right to have their voice heard. Today, the court correctly provided a check for a gross legislative overreach.”