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Tim Moore defends new congressional map as he files to run

State House Speaker Tim Moore, addressing reporters on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, at the State Fairgrounds, where he and other candidates filed to run for various offices in 2024. Moore filed to run for the 14th Congressional District seat, which is one of four districts a federal lawsuit filed by Black and Latino voters claims to be racially gerrymandered.
Rusty Jacobs
/
WUNC
State House Speaker Tim Moore, addressing reporters on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023 at the State Fairgrounds, where he and other candidates filed to run for various offices in 2024. Moore filed to run for the 14th Congressional District seat, which is one of four districts a federal lawsuit filed by Black and Latino voters claims to be racially gerrymandered.

State House Speaker Tim Moore officially became a candidate for Congress on Tuesday, filing to run for North Carolina's 14th Congressional District. But even as the Cleveland County Republican filed for his first run at Congress, he had to defend the district he is running to represent from accusations it was racially gerrymandered.

A group of Black and Latino voters filed a federal lawsuit this week accusing Republicans in the GOP-dominated state Legislature of purposely drawing lines through and around minority communities to dilute their voting power and increase Republican gains at the ballot box.

The lawsuit claims that the district lines were moved to slice left-leaning Black and Latino voters out of the 14th, which sits west of Charlotte, and pack them into the already deeply blue 12th District, in Mecklenburg County, represented by longtime Congresswoman Alma Adams, a Democrat who is also Black.

"This is a case that they're trying to make about both Black and Latino/Latina vote dilution," said Prof. Chris Cooper, who teaches political science at Western Carolina University and has testified as an expert witness in past North Carolina redistricting cases.

In addition to the 12th and 14th Districts, the lawsuit argues GOP legislators also used race to gerrymander North Carolina's 6th and 1st Congressional Districts.

The 6th currently comprises all of Guilford County and part of Forsyth and combines the cities of Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem into one district. But, as Cooper noted, the redrawn map changed all that by splitting Guilford County up between three different districts and by separating the cities of Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem, all with significant Black populations and which the lawsuit claims constitute a single community of interest.

"But does this unfairly discriminate against minority voters and does it deny minority voters the chance to elect a candidate of their choice?" Cooper asked, explaining one of the questions at the heart of the lawsuit.

Republican legislators maintain the Congressional map, as well as state legislative redistricting plans, were drawn according to court-sanctioned criteria.

Districts were kept compact, the splitting of municipalities was minimized, and lawmakers did consider past election results, they have argued.

In 2022, the state Supreme Court's Democratic majority ruled GOP lawmakers had gerrymandered maps with excessive partisanship. But after Republicans won a majority on the court in the midterm elections they revisited that case and reversed it, saying the standards for measuring excessive partisanship were vague and courts should not meddle in redistricting.

That reversal led to the redrawn Congressional map now being challenged on racial grounds. The new 14th Congressional District, which currently comprises most of Charlotte, was moved farther west to take in more conservative areas and seemed tailor made for Speaker Moore.

After the GOP-favorable new map was enacted, Democrat Jeff Jackson, who represents the current 14th District, announced he would forego a re-election campaign and announced instead that he would run to be North Carolina's next Attorney General.

Under the new map, North Carolina's 14-seat Congressional delegation is expected to go from an even 7-7 split between Democrats and Republicans to at least a 10-4 tilt in favor of the GOP.

But Moore told reporters on Tuesday that he's confident the GOP-drawn map will withstand the scrutiny of a federal court.

"I know very well the process that the Legislature went through to draw these districts," Moore said. "To not take race into account whatsoever."

"If you are blind to racial data does that mean that you are necessarily blind to racial discrimination?" asked Professor Cooper, identifying another key question the court reviewing this case will have to tackle.

The plaintiffs have asked for a three-judge panel to consider their case.

Meanwhile, another federal lawsuit is challenging a state Senate district map also on racial grounds, arguing that GOP lawmakers should have considered racial data to determine whether federal law required protections against diluting minority-voting power in certain districts.

Rusty Jacobs is WUNC's Voting and Election Integrity Reporter.