Federal District Court Affirms Landmark Ruling Against Partisan Gerrymandering in North Carolina

RALEIGH, NC – A three-judge federal district court panel in Greensboro again ruled in Common Cause v. Rucho that the NC General Assembly violated the U.S. Constitution in 2016, when legislators manipulated congressional districts for partisan advantage.

The panel reached the same conclusion in January, but the U.S. Supreme Court vacated and remanded the decision in June 2018, following its decision in Gill v. Whitford. The justices asked the trial court panel to reexamine whether plaintiffs had standing to sue. The panel confirmed standing and the original finding of constitutional violations in today’s decision.

According to the court’s decision, “we further conclude that Gill did not call into question — and, if anything, supported — this Court’s previous determination that Plaintiffs have standing to assert partisan gerrymandering claims.”

“We’re pleased that a North Carolina federal court has once again stated what we have long believed, that extreme partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. This is a historic win for voters, and a significant step towards finally ending gerrymandering,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC.

“While we look forward to having our landmark case now go before the highest court in the land, it’s regrettable that North Carolina voters this November will be voting in congressional districts that have been found unconstitutional. We the people deserve better. It’s time for state lawmakers to do their part and pass redistricting reform.”

Appeals of three-judge panel redistricting decisions go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, so the case could be heard there during the next year.

Background on Common Cause v. Rucho:

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 in August 2016 arguing that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, an argument that the federal court agreed with in its ruling in January of this year and affirmed today.

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.

Over 300 civic leaders from 140 towns and cities across North Carolina have signed a petition calling on the legislature to pass independent redistricting reform. And more than 100 North Carolina business owners have launched a coalition calling for an end to gerrymandering.

Common Cause NC is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to encouraging citizen participation in democracy.