Supreme Court Delays Redrawing of North Carolina Congressional Districts in Case Brought by Common Cause

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  • David Vance
Statements of Common Cause and Common Cause North Carolina Officials

Tonight the U.S. Supreme Court in Common Cause v. Rucho granted a stay request from North Carolina legislators ordered by a federal court to redraw the state’s unconstitutionally gerrymandered congressional districts by January 24, 2018. The stay was requested pending the Supreme Court’s ruling in two redistricting challenges before the Court.

“Every North Carolinian, whether Republican or Democrat, deserves to have their voice heard in Washington and we urge the Supreme Court to act on the cases before them expeditiously so that constitutional maps can be drawn in time to ensure fair maps for the 2018 election,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “Justice delayed would be justice denied for the people of North Carolina who have yet to vote in an election with constitutional maps since the 2010 Census was completed.” 

“The Supreme Court’s decision is a disappointment for the many citizens who have lived and voted under maps that allowed politicians to choose voters instead of voters choosing politicians,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. “We sincerely hope that the Court will keep in mind the victims of the unconstitutional gerrymander in North Carolina as they move to decide the cases pending before them this term, because every citizen in the state deserves fair and constitutional maps when they go to the polls this year.”


Common Cause v. Rucho was filed on August 5, 2016 in the U.S. U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina Middle District and was later consolidated with the 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.

On January 9, 2018, Common Cause prevailed in all of its constitutional claims before the district court’s three-judge panel which denied a stay request the next week. A stay request was later filed at the U.S. Supreme Court. Common Cause filed a brief urging the court to deny the requested stay.

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.

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 Common Cause brief urging the Supreme Court to deny the stay request, click here. (1/17/18)

To read the Federal District Court’s denial of the stay request, click here. (1/16/18)

To read the Federal District Court’s decision, click here. (1/9/18)

To read the original Common Cause complaint, click here. (8/5/16)