Wake Voters Sue Over New County Commission Districts

For Immediate Release                                                                                                    Contact: Beverley Clark, 919-247-4207
Anita Earls, 919-794-4198,

Wake Voters Sue Over New County Commission Districts

Voters in overpopulated districts claim the districts make their votes count for less and that district 4 is a race-based district

RALEIGH, NC (April 9, 2015) – Today the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association, and fifteen individual Wake County voters, filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the districts adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly to be used for the Wake County Board of County Commissioners beginning in 2016 are unconstitutional under the federal and state constitutions.
The Plaintiffs contend that the districts approved by the General Assembly on April 2, 2015 failed two constitutional tests:

  • One-person, one-vote violation: Election districts must be approximately the same size in population so that every voter’s vote will carry the same weight. Voters who live in over-populated districts have less say in their government than voters in smaller districts.  The lawsuit claims that the wide population disparities among the districts are unconstitutional because they are based on the desire to favor one party over another and the desire to favor rural and suburban voters at the expense of urban voters.  The new law creates deviations of 9.8% and 7.11%, when it is possible to draw such districts with deviations of .02% and .33% respectively.
  • Excessive use of racial criteria: Even though there is a long history African-Americans being elected at-large to the Wake County Board of County Commissioners, the new plan creates a majority-black district, District 4, that is highly irregular in shape and splits ten precincts. The lawsuit claims this district is an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

The Districts were drawn and approved by Republican state legislators over the objection of the sitting county commissioners, four of whom are Democrats elected last fall.  “This litigation is about the fundamental American proposition that when voters live and vote in districts, those districts should be relatively compact, and the population divided equally,” said Plaintiff Beverley S. Clark, a resident of the over-populated District 3 in the new plan.  “It is undemocratic for the General Assembly to randomly use its power to make district changes without any compelling reason or any new census data.”  Plaintiffs also cite the failure of the General Assembly to adopt a plan proposed by Representative Gill that had equal sized, regular shaped districts using whole precincts, and that didn’t divide voters by race.  The General Assembly could have adopted a more balance option, or put the districts to a vote of the people.  The failure to pursue these options shows that there were illegitimate and unconstitutional motivations behind the plan.
Dr. Earl Johnson, President of the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association, whose members live in the affected districts, stated “The new election plan passed by the General Assembly is likely to result in people having less, not more, connection with their elected representatives.  Right now voters have a voice in electing all seven members who must be accountable to them, under the new plan each voter will have just two commissioners representing them, who can ignore them because the gerrymandered districts give them safe seats. This was a partisan power grab that cannot withstand neutral review.”
The Plaintiffs are represented by Anita Earls of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.  View the Complaint here.
# # #