North Carolina Supreme Court Rejects Gamesmanship in Latest Redistricting Opinion
RALEIGH, N.C. — On Friday, the North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the General Assembly’s remedial Senate map, which was used in the 2022 general election, upon finding this map was still an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The court ordered the trial court to oversee changes to the remedial Senate plan to bring it into state Constitutional compliance.
The court also affirmed the trial court’s order putting in place a court-modified Interim Congressional Map, which was used in the 2022 election, agreeing with the trial court’s earlier decision to reject the General Assembly’s remedial Congressional map as a partisan gerrymander. The high court also affirmed the acceptance of lawmakers’ remedial House map.
“A trial court may not simply find that a districting plan meets certain factual, statistical measures and therefore dispositively, legally conclude based on those measures alone that the plan is constitutionally compliant,” the opinion states. Instead, the courts must determine the “ultimate legal conclusion: whether the plan upholds the fundamental right of the people to vote on equal terms and to substantially equal voting power.”
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, on behalf of plaintiff Common Cause NC, appealed the Wake County Superior Court’s February 2022 decision in Harper v. Hall, which approved the legislature’s remedial state Senate and House maps without modification. Common Cause NC alleged those maps diluted the voting power of Black communities and relied on misleading data to cover up extreme partisan gerrymanders.
“We applaud the court for its findings on the Senate map and for affirming the lower court’s rejection of the interim Congressional map — it’s clear that unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering will not be tolerated at the expense of North Carolina voters’ constitutional right to equal voting power,” said Hilary Harris Klein, Senior Counsel for Voting Rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “While we were disappointed that the high court declined to strike down the remedial House map as well, we will continue to fight for equal voting rights for all and watch lawmakers closely as they prepare for more redistricting.”
The North Carolina General Assembly is expected to enact a new Congressional map before the 2024 election, as the map used in 2022 was only an “interim” map for that election alone.
“This case has set a clear precedent for redistricting in North Carolina. Voting maps must be free from gerrymandering and respect the right of North Carolinians to have a voice in choosing their representatives,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina. “Our districts belong to the people, not politicians.”
“To be a democracy that’s of and for the people, voters must be able to turn to state courts to rein in power-hungry lawmakers intent on passing unfair and discriminatory voting maps,” said Kathay Feng, National Redistricting Director for Common Cause. “We at Common Cause will continue to defend people’s freedom to vote, and will continue to call out these illegal power grabs.”
In its decision, the Supreme Court has made clear it will enforce constitutional standards and ensure that the constitutional principles at play are actually enforced and protected, even at the remedial stage.
“Indeed, the very history of this case itself reveals that the judiciary, though not always in perfect agreement, may meaningfully engage with these principles toward the shared goal of ensuring the preservation of constitutional rights and the maintenance of our sacred system of democratic governance,” the opinion states.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.