North Carolina is closely tied with the struggle for proportional representation. After the 2012 election, the state enacted some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country and is often in the voting rights spotlight. Voting Rights Act litigation continues to be one of the primary mechanisms to mitigate the discriminatory effects of North Carolina’s voting laws and to ensure that minorities have access to representation.
In 1989, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the Martin County Board of Commissioners claiming minority vote dilution in violation of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Despite the fact that Martin County contained cities like Jamesville, which was 40 percent African American, only one African American had ever been elected to the county commission. As a result, Martin County adopted a limited voting system in 1992, and saw marked improvement the next year when two African American county commissioners were elected for the first time.
In that same year, similar improvements occurred in Perquimans County, which adopted a single-vote form of limited voting. In the both 1998 and 2000 elections, two African American members were elected to the county commission and racial minorities – representing 28 percent of the population – held one-third of the county commission and school board seats.
Since then, eight more jurisdictions in North Carolina have adopted limited voting systems, and minority vote dilution has been greatly reduced in those communities. North Carolina politicians have also taken up the mantle of fair representation voting, including at the federal level. Representative Mel Watt, for instance, introduced H.R.1173 to Congress in 1999. The bill would allow states to use multi-member congressional districts, and encouraged legislators to discuss fair representation voting systems. To learn more about fair representation voting methods and how they work, go to our proportional representation page.