Common Cause v. Rucho

The case that could end partisan gerrymandering

This case is a clear example of extreme partisan gerrymandering, where, in this instance, North Carolina Republicans split and mangled districts to create more Republican concentrated districts which represented fewer voters. The suit filed by Common Cause in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, presents compelling evidence of a blatantly partisan and brazenly public power grab in North Carolina. Read below for more details about this case and related issues.

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Common Cause v. Rucho

What's the issue?

Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians were robbed of their ability to elect the candidates of their choice through this blatant partisan gerrymander by the Legislature. Republican Legislators publicly and repeatedly stated that their goal was to gerrymander congressional districts in North Carolina to ensure a overwhelming Republican majority despite an equally split electorate. The most recent drawing of the lines let politicians choose the voters in their districts. Voters should choose politicians; politicians should not choose voters. Letting politicians handpick their constituents bears no resemblance to a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Democratic and Republican gerrymanders both cheat voters from having their voice heard.

When elected officials don’t have to worry about getting reelected they become too safe in their seats and are unresponsive to constituents. Legislators should be listening to the needs of ordinary voters, not wealthy and extreme special interests. Instead of backroom deals where politicians draw their own districts, we need real transparency and impartial redistricting systems so that our elected representatives’ agenda reflect the will of the people.

What's the case?

The North Carolina gerrymander is in clear violation of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and Article I, sections 2 and 4 of the Constitution relating to the manner in which Representatives are popularly elected. This case presents compelling evidence that may make its way to the United States Supreme Court at a time when the court seems more open than ever to the idea of striking down a partisan gerrymander. This case would be the first successful constitutional challenge to a partisan gerrymander, and could set the jurisprudence to prevent racial and partisan gerrymanders in the future.

Background

Common Cause opposes all forms of gerrymandering as an abuse of power, regardless of party. Common Cause has been actively involved in fighting gerrymandering by Democrats as well as Republicans for many years.

In the Courts

  • Common Cause filed trial court and Supreme Court briefs in Shapiro v. McManus, the ongoing challenge to Maryland’s blatant Democratic gerrymander in the wake of the 2010 Census. Mr. Shapiro, a Democrat and member of Common Cause Maryland, challenged his own party.
  • We have also filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of Illinois supporting the placement of Illinois’ Independent Map Amendment on the November ballot in another state in which Democrats manipulated districts for partisan advantage.
  • In Evenwel v. Abbott, Common Cause offered a brief advancing a legal theory cited in parts of the decision that effective constituent service to the public requires counting every resident and not just voters when drawing state legislative districts.
  • Common Cause’s impartial maps were ultimately adopted by Florida courts to remedy a blatant partisan gerrymander. Working with allies, we successfully proved partisan intent and forced new districts to be drawn. In the case of both congressional and state senate districts, our impartial maps were adopted.

In the States

Common Cause is actively working in 16 states to move impartial solutions. Until the U.S. Supreme Court decides that it is time to end gerrymandering nationally, the Citizen-activists of Common Cause continue to promote solutions – such as impartial commissions, the participation of nonpartisan agencies, unbiased and clear standards, and transparency requirements – that already work in several states. Click on each state in the map above to find out more about their work.

In Academia

Common Cause’s Gerrymander Standard Writing Competition is generating important scholarship and making a difference in court. For the second year, Common Cause has sponsored a writing competition to answer the U.S. Supreme Court’s call for a standard measure of partisan gerrymanders courts can use to throw out unfair plans. After a federal court ruled that Virginia’s congressional map was an illegal racial gerrymander, we collaborated with 2015 winners Michael D. McDonald and Robin Best of SUNY Binghamton to submit a brief to the court. This brief, the only one of its kind, guided the court expert chosen to redraw districts by assessing the partisan fairness of proposed replacement maps the public submitted.

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