We and our voting rights allies have won an historic victory in the fight against North Carolina’s extreme partisan gerrymandering, and the congressional and state legislative maps that will be used at least in this year’s election are finally final…hopefully.
Last Wednesday, the state Supreme Court confirmed its precedent-setting ruling in our lawsuit that the state constitution bars partisan gerrymandering. The court went further by approving a new congressional map drawn by the lower court hearing the case after that court decided legislators’ remedial map was still a partisan gerrymander that did not follow the Supreme Court’s previous order.
That court did approve legislators’ new state Senate and House maps instead of ones submitted by us and the other plaintiffs, which were more compact, competitive, and responsive to the popular will. We quickly appealed the lower court’s approval of the Senate map. But unfortunately late Wednesday night, the Supreme Court denied all appeals, including ours.
“We are proud to have secured the historic state Supreme Court ruling that resulted in a bipartisan state House map, and applaud the trial court on producing a congressional map that meets the Supreme Court’s mandate,” said our Executive Director Carrie Clark.
“In a landmark ruling less than three weeks ago, the state Supreme Court finally and firmly established that every North Carolinian deserves the equal right to elect their leaders in free and fair elections. NCLCV v Hall will go down in history. Gerrymandering is unconstitutional,” said Dustin Ingalls, our Director of Strategic Communications. “This is the justice we sought when we filed this lawsuit. With new, constitutional maps, North Carolinians will have a fighting chance to elect a government that fulfills their desire for environmental justice and climate action.”
As expected, the legislative authors of unconstitutional gerrymandering have asked the United States Supreme Court to intervene, and to issue an emergency stay blocking the state’s congressional elections from going forward under the new map. This matter is now in Chief Justice John Roberts’ hands. Most experts expect the stay and appeal to be denied. The court has been reluctant to stop a state election process already underway and to overrule state courts on state constitutional matters. Taking up an appeal from a state’s lower court, jumping over the state’s highest court, would be even more unusual. We will keep you posted.
The legislative maps should be in use for the rest of the decade because state law prohibits mid-decade redraws for those districts. But even if the U.S. Supreme Court denies this appeal, the congressional map will almost certainly be redrawn next year, as state statute allows court-drawn maps to take effect only on an interim basis. If they retain control of the General Assembly, you can bet Republicans will try to re-gerrymander that map. Focus this fall will therefore be not only on legislative races but on the two Supreme Court elections. With a current 4-3 Democratic majority, Republicans will be trying to flip control and insulate themselves from judicial review on matters like this, environmental protection, and a host of other issues.