The North Carolina Supreme Court is again reviewing partisan gerrymandering, at another critical juncture for the survival of ‘free and fair’ elections in our state.
State Republican lawmakers’ continuing efforts to impose maximum partisan advantage in drawing legislative and Congressional districts have once again reached the state Supreme Court. The case is a continuation of the one decided this spring, which finalized district lines for North Carolina’s Congressional maps in the 2022 election cycle. In arguments before the NC Supreme Court last week, lawyers for the Republican legislators argued for broad deference to the judgment of the legislature’s majority votes on legislative maps. Lawyers for the multiple groups and voters challenging those maps argued that doing so would result in flagrantly ultra-partisan maps, in violation of standards previously laid out by the state Supreme Court. That Court has ruled that extreme partisan gerrymandering violates the North Carolina state constitution’s requirements for free and fair elections.
Separately, the United States Supreme Court recently heard arguments on the case brought by these same legislators on the same area of debate. In the federal case, North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders have put forward the precedent-shattering argument for the “independent state legislature” theory. Under that radical re-interpretation of the U.S. constitution, state legislatures would be held as the sole final state voice on the conduct of elections. State constitutions could be ignored regardless of their terms. The basic American legal system of checks and balances between three co-equal branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial) would effectively cease to exist at the state level. Both political and legal scholars note that this would represent a staggering new level of concentration of political power in a single group, never before seen at the state level since the initial adoption of the Constitution more than 200 years ago.
NCLCV is one of the plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of the state maps, and has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in opposition to the “independent state legislature” partisan power grab. NCLCV believes that free, fair, and competitive elections are essential to the ability of the public to hold elected officials accountable to the public on matters of pollution, health, and the environment.