Butterfield vows to fight NC election maps he says dilute Black voting power

Joel Brown Image
Tuesday, November 9, 2021
Butterfield vows to fight NC election maps
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After 18 years, Rep. G.K. Butterfield could lose his seat in Congress.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina has two Black representatives serving in Congress. That number could go down to one if new redistricting maps approved at the General Assembly last week stand up in court. After 18 years, Rep. G.K. Butterfield could lose his seat in Congress. He told ABC11 on Monday that he's going to fight.

"I do plan to run again. I'm going to give it everything that I have," he said.

Since North Carolina first sent him to Congress in 2004, Butterfield has never had a close election -- typically winning at least 60% of the vote in the Democratic-heavy 1st Congressional District.

"I've been doing a lot of research on the district (map) that has been proposed, and it's going to be a very difficult district, to say the least," Butterfield said.

The new congressional maps approved by the Republican majority in the General Assembly last week may turn Butterfield's seat into a highly competitive one. He's the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus who often represents majority-Black counties.

He argues the new election lines don't just give Republicans an unfair political advantage, they prevent voters of color from electing their preferred candidates.

"It is what we call retrogression. The district is retrogressed from 42%, African American to 38%. That violates the Voting Rights Act," said Butterfield. "It is just baffling to me why the Republicans are not willing to prepare and deliver a fair map. It is not a fair map. It is a political gerrymander."

The potential for diluting the power of the Black votes was the topic of a virtual town hall Monday night featuring Marc Elias, the high-profile Democratic attorney, who filed suit last week in North Carolina to block the new redistricting maps -- arguing they're drawn on partisan lines in violation of the state constitution.

"(Our election system) is going in the wrong direction," Elias said at the town hall. "If you were going to design a system that benefited old White men, it is literally the election system we have in this country."

But, before Republicans won the majority in the General Assembly in 2010, Democrats led redistricting for decades in North Carolina, employing many of the same gerrymandering tactics they're now accusing Republicans of.

"I acknowledge to you that 30-40 years ago, Democrats did engage in gerrymandering," Butterfield acknowledged.

"But, during those days, Republicans were in very, very small numbers in North Carolina. But, now we've evolved as a state. We know what the law is. We know what the constitution means. And legislators are now duty-bound to draw a fair map." He says the solution is an independent redistricting commission.

Republicans say Democrats are trying to have it both ways -- arguing in last decade's redistricting fight that the GOP was leaning too hard on voter racial data and now complaining that they aren't looking at it at all.

The Marc Elias lawsuit and another one from the NC NAACP have been filed. Butterfield said he was confident the courts will overturn the maps.