Our redistricting lawsuit is rapidly moving through our state court system, and this article will likely be out of date by the time you read it.
After our motion to stop candidate filing from taking place failed before a three-judge Superior Court panel on Friday, our appeal to the state Court of Appeals succeeded moments before filing was supposed to have opened at noon today (Monday, December 6). The court ordered filing for U.S. House, state Senate, and state House halted until further notice.
But that was just a three-judge motions panel. The full “en banc” Court of Appeals then vacated the stay this evening and allowed filing to proceed tomorrow. Confused? We don’t blame you.
On Friday, our case was combined with another similar case, which was appealed directly to the state Supreme Court rather than the Court of Appeals. Just before the en banc order was issued, reversing the earlier order, Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief with the Supreme Court, asking them to skip the intermediate level and quickly take up the combined cases. They want to stop these maps from going into effect and to once and for all establish state precedent that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional in our state. That court could presumably also issue another stay of filing.
“We are very pleased with the Court of Appeals’ ruling to put the candidate filing period on hold so that candidates do not have to file to run for office in these gerrymandered maps,” said our Executive Director Carrie Clark after our morning victory. “There is more work ahead to get these maps overturned and fair maps adopted, and we will continue to fight to protect our democracy.”
Today’s ruling came after the lower court declined to stop candidate filing or order the maps redrawn. They did lament the long history of gerrymandering in this state, however. “The three-judge court unanimously recognized that extreme partisan gerrymandering has harmed North Carolina’s voters for too long and should never be condoned, but expressed what it called a ‘reasonable doubt’ about whether the General Assembly’s new maps violate our state constitution,” said Clark on Friday. “The people of North Carolina deserve fair maps, and we will continue our fight to protect the voting rights of millions of North Carolina citizens.”
The suit claims unconstitutional partisan and racial gerrymandering across North Carolina, in violation of the state constitution’s free elections clause, equal protection clause, and free speech and free assembly clauses. It also alleges the state House and Senate maps violate the constitution’s whole-county provisions by making deliberate county grouping choices and excessive county traversals to maximize partisan advantage. Additionally, the suit notes that racially polarized voting very much still exists in both general and primary elections, and legislators were wrong to claim they could draw lawful maps while ignoring racial data. Joining us as plaintiffs are 15 North Carolina voters, including legendary former legislator and civil rights activist Mickey Michaux.