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Charlotte redistricting could shift this neighborhood. Now there’s a lawsuit.

If Hidden Valley is put in District 1, the lawsuit claims residents will be put at a further political disadvantage as well.
If Hidden Valley is put in District 1, the lawsuit claims residents will be put at a further...
If Hidden Valley is put in District 1, the lawsuit claims residents will be put at a further political disadvantage as well.(WBTV)
Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 2:25 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Two Charlotte residents have filed a lawsuit against the city of Charlotte, saying two proposed redistricting plans are racially discriminatory and unconstitutional to residents of the Hidden Valley neighborhood.

Several Hidden Valley residents spoke out against redistricting proposals during a City Council meeting last week. Under two of three proposed maps, voting precincts in the neighborhood would move from District 4 to District 1.

The lawsuit argues that residents of Hidden Valley, a majority-Black neighborhood northeast of uptown, would be disenfranchised in District 1, and that redistricting has happened on too short of a timeline. It asks the court to give expedited consideration of the case before Nov. 8, when City Council plans to take a final vote on the maps.

Already, elections for City Council have been postponed due to disruptions the decennial census, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Primary elections are scheduled for March 2022, with a general election in April or May.

Cedric Dean, one of the plaintiffs, filed the lawsuit in District Court on Friday morning. The other plaintiff is Charlene Henderson El, who lost in the Democratic primary for the District 4 council seat two years ago.

A spokesman for the city did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Every 10 years, with the release of U.S. Census data, elected officials must redraw voting maps to account for population growth and loss. In Charlotte, officials are reviewing three potential maps that would shift some voting precincts from one district to another — making the districts substantially equal in population.

Hidden Valley’s current District 4 has recently elected Black representatives to the council.

Two of the proposed maps would move the neighborhood to District 1, which has historically elected a white representative and includes some of uptown and the neighborhoods directly to its east. Hidden Valley sits directly on the border of District 1 and District 4.

Mac McCarley, the former city attorney who is now a partner with the law firm Parker Poe, which has helped manage the redistricting process, said during a City Council meeting last week that some precincts must be moved from District 4 to account for its population growth over the past 10 years.

District 1 is below the population threshold, while District 4 is above it.

ALLEGATIONS OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

During an interview on Friday, Dean said two of the proposed maps were unconstitutional because they would eliminate the ability of Hidden Valley residents to vote for the candidate of their choice. In District 4, they can be represented by a Black leader, while in District 1, that prospect is considerably less likely, he said.

The Hidden Valley area was one of neighborhoods to see a decrease in population from 2010-20, according to U.S. Census data. Voting precincts that include Hidden Valley and some of the surrounding area saw their population drop by 9.5% over the past decade.

As of 2020, the Hidden Valley area was 3.6% white, non-Hispanic; 64% Black and 28% Hispanic.

The redistricting issue is coupled with growing concern about the future of Black communities near Charlotte’s light rail. Some neighborhoods along the light rail have seen the population of white residents increase dramatically while Black populations have deceased.

Meanwhile, some residents have warned that elevating property taxes and increased levels of traffic have made life difficult, particularly for retired homeowners.

If Hidden Valley is put in District 1, the lawsuit claims residents will be put at a further political disadvantage as well.

Dean added that candidates from Hidden Valley would be less able to compete when running against people from other neighborhoods in District 1, like Plaza Midwood.

“You’re moving (Hidden Valley voters) to where they’re going to be insignificant,” he said.

Gavin Off contributed research to this story.

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