Common Cause Urges SCOTUS to Expedite Review of North Carolina’s Partisan Gerrymander to Protect Voters

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  • David Vance

Today, Common Cause filed a motion in the U.S. Supreme Court in Common Cause v. Rucho urging the court to expedite its review of the case in order to provide relief to North Carolina voters in time for 2018 congressional elections. Last week the Supreme Court granted a stay in the case after a unanimous decision from a three-judge federal court had ruled North Carolina’s congressional districts unconstitutional and ordered them redrawn by January 24, 2018. In today’s brief the successful plaintiffs argue that hearing the North Carolina General Assembly’s appeal on a slower standard schedule will unfairly result in North Carolinians voting this November in congressional districts ruled to be an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. This would be a fourth congressional election cycle using an unconstitutional map.   

“The Supreme Court has the chance to once again ensure that every North Carolinian can vote and make their voice heard in Washington but it is essential that the Court act quickly,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “The defendant legislators, essentially disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, and the Supreme Court must affirm the lower court’s decision striking down these districts on an expedited schedule if those votes are to count in the 2018 election. Regrettably, these voters have been tossed from one unconstitutionally gerrymandered district to another since the 2010 Census and that must end.”  

“As the district court ruled, it would cause profound harm to North Carolina citizens to require them to vote in yet another election cycle under unconstitutionally gerrymandered congressional districts,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will move quickly to ensure that our election is held this year with fairly drawn districts that respect the right of voters to have a voice in choosing their representatives.” 

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.

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 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, Jonah M. Knobler, Peter A. Nelson and Elena Steiger Reich of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, and Edwin M. Speas, Jr. and Caroline P. Mackie of Poyner Spruill LLP.

To read the Common Cause motion seeking an expedited review of the case, click here.

To read the decision of the three-judge federal court, click here.

To read the original Common Cause complaint, click here.