Last Tuesday, the three-judge panel in our lawsuit against the General Assembly’s congressional and legislative maps ruled against us. In response, our Executive Director Carrie Clark said, “At trial, we proved beyond a doubt that all three maps are unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders that entrench Republican majorities even if Democrats win the statewide vote by 7 points.”
The lower court agreed legislators manipulated the maps for extreme partisan advantage. The judges spent most of their 258-page decision outlining all the evidence our legal team and expert witnesses laid out at trial…before declining to rule the maps unconstitutional as we requested. In her statement, Clark continued, “We will immediately appeal to the state Supreme Court so every North Carolinian will finally have the equal freedom to choose their representatives in free elections.”
We did indeed appeal, and on Friday, the Supreme Court ordered oral arguments to take place remotely on Groundhog Day. We’re praying for no more weeks of gerrymandering in North Carolina.
Each state’s Supreme Court is normally considered the final arbiter for interpreting its own state’s constitution. That means if we prevail, legislators cannot appeal to federal courts. Even if they could, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in another North Carolina-originating gerrymandering case two years ago that the federal constitution provides no remedy for gerrymandering and that it is up to states to interpret their own constitutions for relief.
But legislators will try to persuade the court to give them another long crack at the wheel even if they should not be trusted. They are set to vote this Wednesday on a bill to delay the primary to June 7. The Supreme Court already moved it from March 8 to May 17 to provide more time for litigation to resolve. Last fall, majority party leaders had refused repeated requests from the state Board of Elections and Democratic lawmakers to take that step before maps were drawn, knowing the census delay would create a time crunch. Only now that they are worried the court could deny them an opportunity to redraw maps are they acting to buy time.
Partisan affronts to our democracy like this could be prevented if Congress passes the Freedom to Vote: John Lewis Act which the U.S. House passed last week. Senate votes are likely this week. Tell your senators to protect our democracy this Martin Luther King Day week.