Republican Legislators Petition NC Supreme Court to Toss Precedent, Rehear Voting Rights Cases Involving Discrimination Against Black Voters
Bryan Warner, Common Cause | firstname.lastname@example.org | 919-836-0027
Melissa Boughton, SCSJ | email@example.com | 830-481-6901
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Republican lawmakers are wasting no time trying to use the recently-flipped state Supreme Court to their advantage — they filed petitions Friday asking the Republican-controlled court to ignore recent precedent and rehear two cases decided just last month, one involving statewide redistricting and the other involving a discriminatory voter ID bill.
In their requests to overturn Harper v. Hall — a case brought by Common Cause North Carolina after lawmakers gerrymandered legislative and Congressional maps to give Republicans an edge at the disproportional expense of Black voters — legislators ask for the ability to return to redistricting “unencumbered” by previous decisions that set constitutional limits on partisan gerrymandering. That petition also asks the court to overturn a February 2022 decision from the case, despite no petition having been filed relating to it for the better part of a year now.
“Self-serving politicians are desperately trying to undermine the state Supreme Court’s landmark ruling against discriminatory gerrymandering. Partisan legislators want to claw power away from the people of North Carolina and go back to illegally manipulating our voting districts,” said Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause North Carolina. “Enough. Politicians in the legislature should stop wasting taxpayers’ money in pursuit of unconstitutional power grabs. It’s time for lawmakers to follow the law.”
As they have argued unsuccessfully throughout this case, the lawmakers’ petition in Harper again asserts that partisan gerrymandering claims are non-justiciable altogether because they contend the state constitution gives legislators “the power to decide what political composition is appropriate for electoral districts.”
Not-so-distant North Carolina history has shown that Republicans in charge of redistricting want free reign to give their party an extreme advantage to remain in control — and they have no issue drawing maps that are impervious to will of voters. Voters from both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly expressed to the legislature as late as the fall of 2021 that they didn’t want partisan gerrymandering by either political party.
“A rehearing in this case is completely unnecessary given the record in this matter developed over the course of a year and hundreds of pages of North Carolina Supreme Court decisions,” said Hilary Harris Klein, Senior Counsel for Voting Rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represents plaintiff Common Cause NC in the Harper cases. “In their 46-page document, defendants failed to identify any points of fact or law the North Carolina Supreme Court failed to consider. Instead, they merely disagree with the result, and that is not adequate grounds for a rehearing.”
Common Cause NC opposes a Harper rehearing, but applicable court rules do not automatically provide a right to be heard in response to such a filing.
In its second petition, Republican lawmakers ask the state Supreme Court to rehear Holmes v. Moore after a decision last month struck down their most recent iteration of a photo voter ID law as an unconstitutional measure passed in part to discriminate against African American voters.
The case was originally filed by Southern Coalition for Social Justice joined by co-counsel from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP in December 2018. It alleged North Carolina’s 2018 voter ID law (S.B. 824), approved by a Republican-led supermajority in a lame-duck session, was racially motivated.
“This petition is another example of legislative leadership stopping at nothing to infringe on the right of African Americans to vote freely in North Carolina,” said Jeff Loperfido, Interim Chief Counsel of Voting Rights at Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “We’re disappointed that lawmakers would choose to waste time rehashing arguments that were rejected by the Court mere weeks ago rather than doing the work of passing a voter photo ID that passes constitutional muster.”
Plaintiff Jabari Holmes, an African American voter with disabilities, and the legal team in the case oppose a rehearing, but like the other petition, court rules don’t give an automatic right to respond.
Common Cause North Carolina 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.