Common Cause Urges Supreme Court to Reject Stay Request for Order to Redraw North Carolina Congressional Districts

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  • David Vance

Today, Common Cause filed a brief in Common Cause v. Rucho urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a stay request of a federal court ruling which ordered that the North Carolina Legislature redraw the state’s unconstitutionally gerrymandered congressional districts by January 24. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina Middle District ruled last week that the Legislature had unconstitutionally drawn congressional district lines with the intent and effect of creating a severe partisan advantage for one side. That court yesterday rejected a stay request by the legislative defendants in the case.

“Regardless of party affiliation, all the people of North Carolina deserve to have their voices heard and we hope the Supreme Court will deny the stay request so that fair and constitutional maps can be drawn in time to ensure fair maps for the 2018 election,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “If the Supreme Court grants a stay, it is very likely North Carolina voters will have another election—the fourth this decade—under unconstitutional maps.” 

“The courts have now repeatedly found extreme attempts by legislative leaders to politically manipulate congressional districts to be unconstitutional, and even by that standard the circumstances in North Carolina were particularly egregious,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. “It is time for every North Carolinian to have fair representation in Congress, and we hope the Supreme Court will help ensure that goal is achieved sooner rather than later with elections held under districts that are free from partisan gerrymandering.”

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 district court.

 When North Carolina’s 2011 congressional redistricting was ruled an unconstitutional racial gerrymander in 2016, the legislative defendants 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 registered Democratic voters in each of the 13 gerrymandered districts. Plaintiffs are represented by Emmet J. Bondurant 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., Steven B. Epstein and Caroline P. Mackie of Poyner Spruill LLP.

To read the brief filed today in the Supreme Court by Common Cause, click here.

To read the Federal District Court’s denial of the stay request, click here.

To read the Federal District Court’s decision, click here.

To read the original complaint, click here.