Courts gavel scales

GREENSBORO — A group of voters from throughout North Carolina have filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that the state’s legislative districts were racially gerrymandered in violation of the 14th Amendment.

The lawsuit is only the latest legal action challenging a 2011 redistricting.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court directed the N.C. Supreme Court to take another look at how the legislative districts were drawn.

The state Supreme Court in December had ruled in favor of the current legislative districts in a lawsuit that was originally filed in Wake County Superior Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court said the state Supreme Court had to reconsider the case in light of a decision on a similar case from Alabama.

In the Alabama case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a lower court did not use the proper method in deciding whether districts there were racially gerrymandered.

The latest lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Greensboro, and like the previous lawsuit, names N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger, along with state Sen. Bob Rucho and state Rep. David Lewis, among others, as defendants.

Rucho and Lewis were chairmen of the state Senate and House redistricting committees, respectively.

The lawsuit alleges that during the 2011 redistricting, “traditional districting principles were plainly subjugated to race, resulting in bizarrely shaped and highly non-compact districts that cross natural geographical boundaries and split political subdivisions with impunity.”

At issue are nine Senate districts and 19 House districts, including Guilford County’s Senate District 28 and House Districts 57, 58 and 60.

The redistricting resulted in nine majority-black Senate districts and 23 majority-black House districts. Previously, there had been no majority-black Senate districts and 10 majority-black House districts.

Those opposed to the redistricting have contended that by concentrating black voters, who are more likely to vote Democratic, the Republican-led legislature was trying to decrease their influence in other districts.

Berger, reached by telephone Thursday, called the allegations “not accurate,” but he said he felt it would be inappropriate to say much more as he did not yet know much about the latest lawsuit.

Rucho and Lewis released a joint statement.

“These claims are a carbon copy of the baseless allegations already rejected by the Obama Justice Department, a bipartisan three-judge Superior Court and the North Carolina Supreme Court,” the statement read. “We are confident these copycat claims will meet the same fate as the originals, and the fair and legal 2011 legislative districts will once again be upheld.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, a group of 27 voters, are requesting hearings to determine new districts and an injunction against the current districts.

Contact Robert C. Lopez at (336) 691-5091, and follow @rclopezNR on Twitter.

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