WRAL: NC’s constitution doesn’t promise ‘fair’ elections
WRAL: NC's constitution doesn't promise 'fair' elections
RALEIGH, N.C. — In Wednesday’s state Supreme Court hearing on a legal challenge to state voting maps, Chief Justice Paul Newby brought up a point that may come as a surprise: North Carolina’s constitution does not explicitly require elections to be fair.
Attorneys for plaintiffs in the case were discussing a decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to strike down voting maps in that state because the maps were alleged to have violated Pennsylvania’s constitutional requirement of “free and equal” elections.
Newby pointed out that the North Carolina Constitution doesn’t say that.
“We have ‘free.’ We don’t have ‘fair.’ They have ‘free and fair, correct?” Newby asked, apparently misquoting the Pennsylvania constitution. …
Attorney Allison Riggs, who is representing plaintiff Common Cause in the redistricting case, says that even though the state constitution doesn’t explicitly require fair elections, case law clearly does.
“I’ve certainly studied the history,” she said, “and there is not a suggestion anywhere that the failure to put ‘fair’ in the constitution means that there’s a presupposition that elections will be run unfairly.”
Riggs says constitutional provisions have to be understood together in context.
“In cases interpreting free elections, there’s frequently also an equal protection claim associated with that that really talks about how we have to treat people equally and fairly,” Riggs said. “Sometimes you can miss the forest for the trees.”