Former Attorney General Eric Holder Protects Voting Rights in North Carolina With Redistricting Case Victory - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

Eric Holder, the former attorney general during the Obama administration who was once considered as a presidential candidate, is undertaking a different type of campaign: seeking to ensure voters’ rights.

That was evident with the ruling earlier this week by a North Carolina state court to discard the state’s map of congressional districts in response to the plaintiffs’ charges that “beyond a reasonable doubt” it was unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering that would guarantee Republicans a majority of the state’s 13 House Districts, according to a New York Times report. The three-judge panel’s decision effectively places temporary restrictions on using the map in the primary races for spring 2020 as well as indicates possible postponement of primary elections if there is continued litigation or required redrawing of House districts.

The Republicans’ rebuttal was that they had defended the constitutionality of the House map based on a federal lawsuit that gained a favorable ruling by the Supreme Court in June. The panel, however, noted that the North Carolina GOP had a “detailed record of both the partisan intent and intended partisan effect of the 2016 congressional districts,” the New York Times reported. The state court plans to make a final ruling before the March 3 filing period for the spring primaries.

“For nearly a decade, Republicans have forced the people of North Carolina to vote in districts that were manipulated for their own partisan advantage. Now finally the era of Republican gerrymandering in the state is coming to an end,” Holder said in the report, responding to the decision related to the map drawn by North Carolina legislators in 2016.

The North Carolina plaintiffs in the case were backed by National Redistricting Foundation, the nonprofit affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, considered “the strategic hub for executing a comprehensive redistricting strategy [to create] fair districts where Democrats can compete,” which is chaired by Holder and supported by former President Barack Obama and other key political leaders nationwide. The foundation was designed to bring legal action against Republican state-elected officials for alleged Voting Rights Act violations as well as what it deemed as illegal “gerrymandering” of state legislative and congressional districts ahead of the 2020 U.S. Census. Holder plans to use such initiatives to thwart the GOP’s dominance over the post-Census redistricting process in 2021.

In a Mother Jones article, Holder asserted that gerrymandering, the maneuver to draw district lines to favor one party, as integral in the fight for voting rights since it undercuts the franchise of certain communities within a given state. “There is a connection between gerrymandering and voter suppression,” he said. “It is not a coincidence that you see the greatest amount of voter suppression in those states where you see the greatest amount of gerrymandering.”

The NRF is a continuation of Holder’s efforts to protect voting rights during his tenure as attorney general, filing lawsuits related to GOP-driven voter suppression law in states such as North Carolina and Texas. Black Enterprise reported on Holder’s greatest defeat during that period.: The 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder in which the high court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that stripped the law’s formula to require all or jurisdictions of states with a history of electoral discrimination—many of them located in the South—to gain “pre-clearance” by the federal government before making any adjustments to voting statutes.

Holder’s NRF will continue to press cases and seek to gain more victories like the recent North Carolina ruling. Stanton Jones, attorney for the plaintiffs, told the Times: “North Carolina Republicans tried to beat democracy with their gerrymandered maps and the U.S. Supreme Court would have let them get away with it. The state court’s decision ensures that North Carolinians will finally get to vote in free and fair congressional elections.”