CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Next week, the Charlotte City Council will vote on the final version of a map that will redraw the city’s districts. Municipalities are legally required to redistrict when population growth throws off the balance of equal representation.
What You Need To Know
A group of concerned residents claim a proposed redistricting map “gerrymanders” their community
Sixteen precincts would shift to other council districts if the proposed map is approved
City council will vote on November 8 whether to approve the proposed redrawn map
But some are claiming elected leaders have gerrymandered the process, and they recently filed a lawsuit in federal court.
Charlene Henderson and Cedric Dean are challenging the redistricting committee’s work by saying they live in a community of interest that shouldn’t be touched. They say they tried convincing council members to do something different, but they say they feel their complaints were ignored. It’s what they say led them to filing the lawsuit.
Henderson says she doesn’t just call a place home, she advocates for it.
“This is a community that really needs people like myself to come back over here and help show them that we love it,” Henderson said.
She says she spent most of her life in west Charlotte where she grew up. That was until two years ago when she unsuccessfully ran for the district 4 seat on city council. Following that race, she said she moved to northeast Charlotte’s Hidden Valley neighborhood, “… because I love it.”
Mecklenburg County Board of Elections data show, while Henderson lost the district 4 race, she did, however, win both of Hidden Valley’s precincts. She says that small victory motivated her.
“They supported me in 2019,” she said. “I said that I was never going to leave them.”
Now that redistricting could impact that community’s political future she’s taking her passion for Hidden Valley and turning it into legal action.
“I filed the lawsuit because I’m a precinct chair, I’m a citizen and I’m a resident of Hidden Valley,” she said.
She’s calling out the city council redistricting committee and current district 4 councilwoman Renee Johnson for not opposing the proposed map that moves Hidden Valley’s two voting precincts from the southern fringes of district 4 to district 1.
“And, when you give up two precincts that potentially may have a candidate to help the communities in which you live, for me, that’s gerrymandering,” Henderson said.
“We had to file this lawsuit,” added Dean, who’s an activist who works closely with the Hidden Valley Community Association.
Henderson joined forces with him on the lawsuit.
“We went before the city council with 400 petitions,” Dean said.
But he feels the city council did not listen to them. He claims shifting Hidden Valley into a different district will dilute the Black vote.
“’Cause you got district 4 which has chose all Black candidates, and then you got district 1, which has chose all white candidates,” Dean added.
Census data the committee itself is using shows district 4, where Hidden Valley currently resides, is 44.3% Black and 29.9% white. District 1, where the committee recommends moving Hidden Valley, is 40.7% white and 32.5% Black.
“It’s supposed to be about the people and their political preferences and being able to choose a candidate of their choice,” Dean said.
Dean and Henderson do not have an attorney and are representing themselves in their lawsuit, which is asking for “injunctive relief” and a “temporary restraining order.”
“We want to stay where we are,” Henderson added.
She says she’s fighting for her neighborhood that is on the rebound in status, opportunity and political importance.
“But when you take us out of where we are now and push us somewhere else, then, guess what, we’re at the bottom of the food chain now,” Henderson said.
Spectrum News 1 reached out to councilman Malcolm Graham, who chairs the city council redistricting committee, councilwoman Renee Johnson and the city of Charlotte about this lawsuit and what Henderson and Dean are claiming. They all said “no comment.”
City council will vote Monday, November 8 whether to adopt the proposed redistricting map. They have a November 17 deadline to provide the revised, adopted redistricting map to the county board of elections.
It will be important to pay attention to your voter registration as we near next spring’s primary election, in the event your precinct does move.