The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters (NCLCV), along with a group of civil rights leaders, math and computer science professors and former elected officials filed suit in Wake County Superior Court against the state’s newly-passed legislative and congressional maps. The lawsuit argues that the new state House, Senate and congressional maps drawn by Republicans advantage GOP candidates who favor fossil fuel interests that harm communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by pollution. They also violate the North Carolina constitution by diluting the voting strength of Black voters and entrench Republican power across the state.
According to plaintiffs, the voters most impacted by gerrymandering and other forms of voter suppression are also most impacted by climate change and environmental injustice. A clear example is the industrial hog farming industry which is overwhelmingly located in communities of color. Republican representatives have drawn safe districts for themselves. They continually favor the rights of Big Ag over the health concerns and living conditions of the mostly Black and brown communities nearby.
In a media release, Elizabeth Redenbaugh, President of NCLCV’s Board of Directors, said Republicans were usurping power from the people and taking our state in the wrong direction. “We’re taking them to court to seek justice for voters who are tired of politicians favoring polluters over people — especially people of color who those polluters and politicians have disproportionately victimized time and again,” said Redenbaugh. “A healthy environment requires a healthy democracy where every voter has the equal freedom to elect lawmakers who share their values and who reflect their communities. Voters deserve a Congress and General Assembly that are accountable to them and that will protect their rights to clean air, clean water, and clean energy.”
The way the maps are drawn have a greater impact on who gets elected than voter suppression laws or voter fraud, say mathematicians and scientists who advocate for redistricting by computational redistricting. Using the principles of mathematics, high-performance computing, and spatial demography, scientists say computational redistricting can identify maps that unconstitutionally burden the right to vote and remedy those violations.
“NCLCV is especially concerned about the Enacted Plans’ effects on North Carolina’s black voters. Black citizens are often hurt first and worst by pollution and climate change. And historically, redistricting has been used to exclude communities of color from representation,” states the complaint. “The Enacted Plans continue that unfortunate legacy, dilute the voting power of black North Carolinians, including voters who are members of NCLCV, and undermine NCLCV’s efforts to address environmental harms in systematically excluded communities of color. The maps for US congressional and state legislative races often resemble electoral bestiaries, with bizarrely shaped districts emerging from wonky hybrids of counties, precincts, and census blocks.”
The full lawsuit, including proposed remedial maps, can be found here.
The Ohio Environmental Council filed a similar lawsuit against that state’s new maps. The Council says there is a direct connection between skewed political representation and a string of recent laws that favor the fossil fuel industry.