Last Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court put to rest pro-polluter North Carolina lawmakers’ desperate attempt to get their gerrymandered congressional map reinstated. The high court ruled 6-3 against legislators’ motion for an emergency stay of elections using state courts’ redrawn congressional map because it was too late in the election calendar. With that last-gasp effort stymied and candidate filing complete, the 2022 elections will now proceed as scheduled, starting with the May 17 primary.
“The same legislators who drew unconstitutional, gerrymandered maps sought to throw North Carolina’s elections into disarray with a last-minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after they lost repeatedly in state court,” said our Executive Director Carrie Clark. “We applaud justices’ 6-3 decision today, allowing elections to proceed with a congressional map that treats all citizens fairly and equally, regardless of party, region, or race. Now North Carolinians have the strongest chance in a decade to elect leaders who will advocate for their right to clean air, clean water, clean energy, and the equal freedom to vote.”
We were a leading plaintiff in the successful case to bar extreme partisan bias in the design of electoral district maps. In ruling for the plaintiffs, the state Supreme Court cited multiple provisions of the state constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court typically defers to state courts’ interpretations of their own states’ constitutions, so long as they are not found to be in direct conflict with the U.S. Constitution.
But legislators are seeking to upend that precedent, and at least four justices have signaled willingness to entertain their legal theory. In last week’s ruling, justices did not address the merits of legislators’ absurd argument that the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures sole power to set congressional lines, with no jurisdiction for state courts applying provisions of state constitutions, four justices signaled willingness to do so on next year’s court docket. That means long-term litigation against gerrymandering will continue. Stay tuned as we continue fighting for fair maps and free elections.