Six residents join City of Greensboro in federal challenge to new council districts

by Jeff Sykes

Six Greensboro residents joined the city itself in a lawsuit filed Monday that seeks to overturn a recent state law that would radically alter the method of city council elections.In the court filing submitted to the US District Court today, attorneys from Brooks, Pierce and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice claimed the redistricting move “destroys self-government by the City of Greensboro and its citizens.””If permitted to take effect, the Greensboro Act would destroy municipal government crafted and controlled by the citizens of Greensboro and replace it with a city council founded upon unconstitutional voting districts and expressly limited in its powers of self-government,” the suit states. City residents Lewis A. Brandon III, Joyce Johnson, Reverend Nelson Johnson, Richard Alan Koritz, Sandra Self Koritz, and Charli Mae Sykes joined the City of Greensboro in the lawsuit filed against the Guilford County Board of Elections. The county board is empowered by state law to administer elections for the City of Greensboro.The citizen plaintiffs, represented by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, claim that overpopulation of voters in certain new districts under the plan will devalue their individual vote when the plan takes effect with the opening of the candidate filing period on July 27. They also claim that their “communities of interest” have been divided among multiple districts under the plan. Additionally, both the citizen plaintiffs and the city claim the new law violates the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.The law stemmed from a bill filed by state Sen. Trudy Wade that was later shoved into a house bill regarding the Trinity City Council. Specific language in the law as it relates to Greensboro forbids the council or city residents from petitioning for a change in the structure of city council in the future. Both parties claim this language singles the City of Greensboro out and is therefore unconstitutional.”The timing of this action therefore provides this Court the opportunity to remedy the equal protection violations created by the Greensboro Act prior to significant and potentially detrimental reliance on that scheme by Defendant and potential candidates for City Council,” the lawsuit states.The lawsuit also claims that the process used to craft and pass the bill was “tainted with bad faith, arbitrariness, and discrimination.””It is readily apparent that the plan and process initiated by the Greensboro Act were designed to serve the predilections and preferences of a few, as opposed to the interest of the community as a whole, its commonalities and communities of interest.”The case seeks a temporary and permanent injunction against the new redistricting plan. It also asks that for the purposes of the 2015 municipal election that the previous districts and at-large seats already in place be used.

A copy of the lawsuit is available here.