Gerrymander Gazette: Big Wins in NC and PA Edition
March 11, 2022
Wins of the Week
This week brought some good news for gerrymandering opponents everywhere when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene in redistricting disputes in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In North Carolina, it all started when the General Assembly approved congressional and state legislative districts that were clearly designed to make it harder for Black North Carolinians and Democrats to cast a meaningful vote. The North Carolina Supreme Court struck those districts down as racial and partisan gerrymanders that violate the North Carolina Constitution and sent the maps back to the legislature to redo, with instructions that a three-judge panel of the Superior Court was to review and approve the new maps. While the three-judge panel approved the new state house and state senate maps, they found that the congressional map was still unconstitutional and relied on nonpartisan experts to draw a new version. In Pennsylvania, the legislature and governor could not agree on maps, so plaintiffs went to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to ask the court to take on the task. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court chose a map from plans that different plaintiffs submitted, landing on one that pretty closely matches the politics of the state.
The North Carolina legislature and a group of individual plaintiffs in Pennsylvania asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and proposed a radical idea called the independent state legislature theory, which would essentially end state court oversight of the way legislatures administer federal elections and give legislators significantly more power to gerrymander. This theory has huge implications for voting rights broadly and the ability of courts to police unfair maps specifically. Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene, which means the nonpartisan replacement maps in both states will go into effect. Although reformers won for now, a concurrence by Justice Kavanaugh and a dissent by Justices Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch demonstrates that, while a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court does not want to disturb districts this close to the election, several of the Justices want to give the independent state legislature theory a hearing soon.
- The Census Bureau concluded that it incorrectly counted 18.8 million people and significantly undercounted Black, Latino, and Native American populations in the 2020 census.
- Louisiana’s governor vetoed a U.S. House map the legislature passed, which sets up a showdown and possible attempt by legislators to override the veto.
- There are new filings and developments in redistricting lawsuits in Kansas, Missouri, New York, and Tennessee.
- A dispute over whether Virginia state legislators should have to run for office this year after running in malapportioned districts last year is now being heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
- Republican members of Congress are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s adoption of Gov. Evers’ congressional map.
- The Ohio Supreme Court will soon decide the fate of a congressional map and state legislative map that the state’s politician commission drew.
- A federal court ordered the Baltimore County Council to draw two majority-Black districts in a lawsuit brought by Common Cause Maryland, Baltimore County NAACP, the League of Women Voters of Baltimore County, and several Black voters. Despite this order, the Baltimore County Council submitted a new map with just one.