Last week, a sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court concluded its term with a 5-4 refusal to rule even the most extreme partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional. The court overturned Appeals Court decisions which had struck down congressional district plans in North Carolina and Maryland as unconstitutional abuses.
The majority called the redistricting maps, which were drawn with computer-assisted precision to provide unfair advantage to one political party’s candidates, “political questions” in which the courts should not interfere.
Voting rights activists called the decision a “bitter disappointment” which prejudices individuals’ right to a political voice, and undermines voters’ right to participate in “free and fair elections.”
For now, environmental advocates and other public interest representatives in North Carolina are moving forward on three related fronts:
- Redoubling efforts to impact swing district races in order to increase the number of environmental champions and voting rights advocates in the North Carolina General Assembly
- Pressing legislators to support plans for drawing new district maps on a nonpartisan basis
- Supporting separate litigation in state court, challenging the legality of extreme partisan gerrymandering under the state constitution
League of Conservation Voters (LCV) senior vice president Jennifer Allen Aroz said of the court’s ruling, “With the Court’s refusal to address the scourge of partisan gerrymandering, states must establish clear rules to prevent the drawing of unfair maps that entrench politicians and parties and silence our communities.”
NC League of Conservation Voters (NCLCV) executive director Carrie Clark added, “Now we must work even harder to elect more leaders who will advance our shared environmental values and ensure everyone has an equal right to vote. Voting rights and our environment go hand in hand. If polluters can use rigged districts to keep their pet politicians in power, we can’t protect people’s rights to clean air, clean water, and clean energy. But with a new majority, we can end gerrymandering forever and take a leap forward on climate, hog waste, coal ash, GenX, solar, wind, and so many other issues which are being blocked by the current pro-polluter majority.”
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