Common Cause files motion asking U.S. Supreme Court to affirm lower court ruling striking down NC partisan gerrymander

RALEIGH – Common Cause on Friday filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the justices to uphold a landmark ruling striking down partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina.

In January, the federal middle district court in Greensboro issued a historic decision in Common Cause v. Rucho, ruling that the legislature’s extreme partisan gerrymandering of North Carolina’s congressional districts is unconstitutional.  In its finding for Common Cause, the court also ordered the legislature to draw new congressional maps for the 2018 elections.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay in the case pending an appeal by Republican legislative leaders, putting on hold any new map from being created for the time being.

Friday’s motion by Common Cause argues that the district court decision was correct on the merits and asks the U.S. Supreme Court either to affirm the district court’s judgment or agree to hear oral argument in the case.

“Republican legislative leaders created an extreme and brazen partisan gerrymander designed to entrench their political power by silencing the voices of millions of North Carolina voters, in clear violation of citizens’ constitutional rights,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC. “And once again, we may see our state’s citizens go to the polls in November voting for candidates in districts that have been ruled unconstitutional. We are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately uphold this landmark decision and ensure that politicians will no longer be allowed to use partisan gerrymandering to shield themselves from accountability to the public.”

Lawyers for Republican legislative leaders defending their gerrymandered maps will have until May 11 to file a response to the motion from Common Cause.

In 2016, a federal court ruled that the Republican-controlled NC legislature had unconstitutionally gerrymandered two of the state’s 13 congressional districts along racial lines and ordered them to be redrawn.

Republican legislative leaders responded by claiming they would craft a new congressional map by ignoring race entirely, and instead draw a blatant partisan gerrymander, as Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, stated publicly during a redistricting committee meeting in February of 2016.

“We want to make clear that we … are going to use political data in drawing this map,” Lewis said at that time. “It is to gain partisan advantage on the map. I want that criteria to be clearly stated and understood.”

That blatant gerrymander by the legislature prompted Common Cause to file suit arguing that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, an argument that the federal district court agreed with in its pivotal January ruling in Common Cause v. Rucho.

“On its most fundamental level, partisan gerrymandering violates the core principle of republican government … that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around,” Judge James Wynn wrote in the court’s scathing rebuke of the legislature’s shameless gerrymander. “Put differently, partisan gerrymandering represents an abuse of power.”

In addition to fighting gerrymandering in the courts, Common Cause has been a longtime advocate for legislation that would establish nonpartisan redistricting in North Carolina.

House Bill 200 would take redistricting power out of the hands of legislators and give it to an independent body, which in turn would draw districts free from partisan politics.  The measure has broad support in the NC House with 39 bipartisan co-sponsors and overwhelming public support, but it has not yet been given a hearing or a vote in that chamber.

The motion filed by Common Cause to affirm the ruling in Common Cause v. Rucho can be read here.

More information on the case of Common Cause v. Rucho can be found here.

Common Cause NC is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy.