Common Cause Prevails in Federal Court Challenge to North Carolina’s Partisan Gerrymander
- David Vance
Today, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina unanimously struck down North Carolina’s partisan gerrymander of congressional districts by the state’s legislature in a challenge originally brought by Common Cause.
The constitutional challenge, Common Cause v. Rucho, was consolidated with a subsequent suit, League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho. The Common Cause challenge included four separate counts against the plan as a whole and each of its 13 congressional districts. The counts cited the gerrymander as a 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. Common Cause prevailed in all of its constitutional claims before the court.
When North Carolina’s 2011 congressional redistricting was ruled an unconstitutional racial gerrymander in 2016, legislators publicly boasted that their goal was to replace it with a political gerrymander. In hearings they explained that the map drawers were to be instructed to create a map that would create ten Republican congressional districts and only three for Democrats.
“Every American deserves representation in Washington, but the gerrymandered map struck down by the court today robbed much of the state of a representative voice in the nation’s capital,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause. “Today’s decision is a victory for democracy and a victory for North Carolinians who were carved out of any real choice in their elected representatives in Washington. Partisan gerrymanders are quite simply undemocratic and that is why Common Cause has fought them in the courts whether the lines were drawn by Republicans in North Carolina or Democrats in Maryland.”
“This is a true victory for North Carolina voters,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. “At long last, politicians in our state will no longer be allowed to use partisan gerrymandering in order to shield themselves from accountability to the public.”
The challenged congressional map was drawn to result in a 10-3 majority for Republicans, despite the fact that in North Carolina at the time the map was enacted, there were 2,634,903 registered Democrats, 1,976,873 registered Republicans, and 1,844,264 unaffiliated registered voters.
Common Cause was joined in the litigation by the North Carolina Democratic Party and registered Democratic voters in each of the 13 gerrymandered districts. Plaintiffs are represented by Emmet J. Bondurant, Jason J. Carter, and Benjamin W. Thorpe of Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, LLP, Gregory L. Diskant and Susan Millenky of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP and Edwin M. Speas, Jr. and Caroline P. Mackie of Poyner Spruill LLP,
To read the court’s decision, click here.
To read the full filing, click here.