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Supreme Court's ruling in Alabama voting rights case could give boost to North Carolina's Don Davis

First-term Democratic Congressman Don Davis could benefit from the Supreme Court's recent decision in a Alabama voting rights case.
Don Davis
First-term Democratic Rep. Don Davis could benefit from the Supreme Court's recent decision in a Alabama voting rights case.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s surprise ruling Thursday that Alabama has diluted the power of African-American voters with its congressional map could give a boost to first-term North Carolina Democratic Rep. Don Davis.

Davis, who is Black, represents a rural district in the northeast part of the state. He won his election in 2022 by nearly 5% against Republican Sandy Smith.

But with North Carolina lawmakers set to draw a new congressional map this summer, some experts thought Davis could be in trouble if the GOP added more white voters to his district.

But the Alabama decision may make it harder for the GOP to target his seat. If African-American voters were diluted, North Carolina Republicans could run afoul of the 1965 Voting Rights Act based on the highest court’s recent ruling.

Catawba College political science professor Michael Bitzer said the Alabama ruling would likely help Davis — and help the Democrats keep at least four of 14 seats.

“I think it does kind of insulate Davis’ district a little more than what a lot of folks were thinking,” Bitzer said.

The Cook Political Report Thursday shifted Davis’ seat from a toss-up in 2024 to “lean Democratic.”

Alabama has six congressional seats, with all but one held by Republicans. In the Supreme Court case, plaintiffs argued it would be fair under the Voting Rights Act to have at least two majority Black seats, or “opportunity” seats that an African-American candidate might win.

The court agreed with that argument in a 5-4 decision. Justices Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts joined the three liberal justices.

North Carolina’s current congressional delegation has seven Democrats and seven Republicans.

But because that map was drawn by special masters appointed by the N.C. Supreme Court, the General Assembly will be allowed to redraw them before the next election in 2024.

Experts have speculated that the GOP will target at least three Democratic lawmakers: Jeff Jackson of Charlotte, Kathy Manning of Greensboro and Wiley Nickel of Cary.

In addition to Davis, there are two other Black members of Congress from North Carolina: Alma Adams of Charlotte and Valerie Foushee in the 4th District, which covers Durham, Orange and Alamance counties.

It’s possible Democrats in South Carolina could use the Alabama ruling to secure another seat. Of the state’s seven members of Congress, there is only one Democrat —
Jim Clyburn.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.