DLCC report highlights racial gerrymandering in North Carolina, other former Confederate states

Black voters are underrepresented in state Legislatures in the South, according to data and other information compiled by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), which works to elect Democrats to state Legislatures nationwide.

The report, obtained by Southeast Politics, attributes disproportionate voter representation, at least in part, to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2013 striking down key parts of the Voting Rights Act, such as a preclearance requirement in places where voter disenfranchisement was historically significant.

Since then, the analysis found, North Carolina and other southern states have enacted what it describes as “racially discriminatory” voting maps.

“At the same time that the Black community faces direct attacks on their fundamental right to fair and equal representation by Republican legislators, Black populations are facing higher poverty and maternal mortality rates,” the report reads.

“Equal access to the ballot box is vital for communities to be able to choose representatives who will fight for the issues and policies they care about. Being deprived of fair representation has compounding effects on people’s everyday lives.”

The group wrote in its analysis that “the only antidote to gerrymandering Republicans and their extreme, anti-democratic, and discriminatory agenda is electing Democrats to state legislatures who will protect our democracy, ensure fair representation, and secure the right to vote.”

In North Carolina, the report points to a lawsuit filed by voting rights advocates and Black voters accusing lawmakers of racially gerrymandering both the state House and Senate “by deliberately targeting the ‘Black belt’ and other Black districts.”

The lawsuit, filed by the group Common Cause, the North Carolina NAACP and eight Black voters, argues that the approved maps for House and Senate districts violate the Voting Rights Act and U.S. constitutional provisions that prohibit racial discrimination, according to NC Newsline.

Prior to 2022, North Carolina had six Representatives in the House who were Black, while there were three Black state Senators. But since 2022, when the state began using temporary, Judge-drawn maps, there are only three Black Representatives in the House and just one Black state Senator.

Reports following the 2022 Midterms show that five Black lawmakers lost races in eastern North Carolina, losses largely attributed to the new maps, but also an onslaught of negative ads and low Democratic turnout.

The state’s “Black belt” refers to areas of eastern North Carolina where enslaved people and descendants worked the land. Many of the areas have majority Black populations, while others hover around 40-50% Black population.

The DLCC analysis also found that Black workers earn just 72 cents per dollar compared to what White workers earn.

“The poverty rate for Black North Carolinians is more than double that of their white counterparts,” the analysis notes. “The infant mortality rate for Black North Carolinians is almost triple the rate of their white counterparts.”

It also notes that Black residents in the state “are more than twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white residents.”

“Racial gerrymandering is an illegal voter suppression tactic weaponized by Republicans to dilute the voting power of Black communities, and it’s especially pervasive across the South,” DLCC Communications Director Abhi Rahman told Southeast Politics.

“Republicans can’t win elections on their values, so they use relics of Jim Crow laws to undemocratically rig systems of power. These discriminatory Republican tactics must come to an end.”

The analysis includes side-by-side comparisons of various metrics between Black and white populations. The poverty rate, which utilizes data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Health State Facts, is 9.4% in North Carolina among White residents, but a staggering 19% among Black North Carolinians.

On infant mortality, using the same data set, White North Carolina residents have an infant mortality rate of just 4.8%, while Black residents sit at 12%.

And Black residents are nearly 5 percentage points less likely to be high school graduates, with the graduation rate among White residents at 90.8% and just 85.2% for Black residents, according to the National Center for Education Statistics data for the 2019-2020 school year.

And it’s not just North Carolina. The report also spotlights similar data in Georgia and analyzes data regionally, finding that in nine of 11 former Confederate states, Black citizens experience underrepresentation in their state Legislatures.

Various judges in Georgia, Louisiana and Alabama all found voting maps to be illegal, though maps were used anyway because rulings came too close to elections.

“The DLCC is laser-focused on supporting our in-state partners in North Carolina, Georgia, and across the country to hold Republicans accountable for their racist tactics as we fight for fair maps,” Rahman said. “Access to the ballot box is the fundamental tenet of our democracy, which is why the DLCC will continue to be at the forefront of fighting for every voice to be heard.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. In early 2022, she left the business to serve as Communications Director for St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch. After leaving the administration, Janelle briefly worked as a communications consultant for candidates, businesses and non-profits, before accepting her position as Publisher for Southeast Politics, a homecoming of sorts to her Florida Politics roots, where she served as a reporter and editor for several years. Janelle has also held roles covering the intersection of politics and business for the Tampa Bay Business Journal and general assignment news with an emphasis on social justice and climate change for WMNF Community Radio, where she also hosted a political call-in show under several names, including Last Call, Midpoint and The Scoop. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]

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