The Freedom to Vote Act can save NC Democracy from Drowning

Public Citizen
3 min readJan 3, 2024

By Ariyah Sadler | Democracy Fellow with Declaration for American Democracy

The history of racial gerrymandering in North Carolina is a long and tiring one, and now the North Carolina General Assembly has passed a new districting map that could flip multiple Congressional seats to Republicans without earning a single new voter. But the people will not give up the fight for fair representation. A group of Black and Latino North Carolina voters have filed a new lawsuit against the map, alleging that it unconstitutionally discriminates against voters of color. While lawsuits have proven to be an effective tool in fighting gerrymandering, we need permanent solutions, such as congressional action to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act..

This isn’t the first time that North Carolina lawmakers have tried to suppress the voices of voters of color. Gerrymandering, the practice of manipulating the boundaries of an electoral map to favor one party, has been an issue for years. ‘Packing and cracking,’ the practice of ‘packing’ communities of color into single districts to minimize the number of minority-majority districts, or drawing district lines that ‘crack’ communities of color to dilute their voting power, have been used when drawing districts all over the state for several prior maps as well. To combat this practice, lawsuit after lawsuit has come out to challenge the unfair gerrymandering efforts. While many of them have been overturned, the Republican-led General Assembly continues in its efforts to stay in power using unfair, discriminatory practices.

North Carolina is a fairly purple state, but instead of trying to earn more votes, extremist North Carolina politicians consolidate their power through unfair maps and voter suppression, with the end goal of passing unpopular policies that restrict the rights of North Carolinians. Gerrymandered maps also make it easier for our legislators to disregard or even betray their constituents. For example, Representative Tricia Cotham switched parties from Democrat to Republican earlier this year, giving the right-wing the supermajority in the state legislature and allowing them to override the veto from Governor Cooper to enact a twelve-week abortion ban in the state, against the will of North Carolina voters. The voters who elected Cotham to represent them will not have the chance to hold her accountable in the next election, as the new lines of her district provide her with a 25-point swing in her favor and an easy re-election.

Attacks on democracy such as gerrymandering do not occur in a vacuum. In fact, they are part of a much larger trend that has been becoming more prevalent in our state and across the country in the past several years. Just this year, new voter ID laws went into effect in North Carolina that disenfranchise minority populations under the guise of preventing voter fraud — despite wide-scale voter fraud being virtually nonexistent. Make no mistake, just like the unfair maps, these attacks on our freedom to vote are meant to keep extremist politicians in power by diluting the power of voters — especially voters of color.

While lawsuits are an important tool to combat gerrymandering, we need permanent solutions to ensure fair representation. Congress must pass legislation such as the Freedom to Vote Act to strengthen democracy and prevent gerrymandering. This legislative package would create national standards that protect voters, fight against partisan election subversion, and ensure that congressional districts are drawn fairly. In addition, Congress must pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would fully restore the provisions in the Voting Rights Act to prevent racial gerrymandering. North Carolinians have faced strike after strike against democracy over the years, but with federal legislation that could protect it, we can elect a state legislature who truly represents us and responds to the issues that we care about.

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