U.S. Supreme Court ducks responsibility to end gerrymandering; Effort to end gerrymandering in NC moves forward in state court

RALEIGH – Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Rucho v. Common Cause. In its 5-4 ruling, a narrow majority of justices declined to overturn extreme partisan gerrymandering of North Carolina’s congressional districts.

Statement from Bob Phillips, executive director of Common Cause NC:

“This ruling is a bitter disappointment. And make no mistake about it, there are victims of this decision. The victims are those North Carolinians who do not have a voice in Washington because a narrow majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has condoned an abusive partisan gerrymander. Legislators freely and publicly admitted that their goal was to carve out and hold a 10-3 advantage in U.S. House seats for their own party despite the fact that the votes cast in those races would split nearly down the middle.

We will continue to seek justice for the people of our state through our challenge of partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts as a violation of the North Carolina Constitution. We are confident that justice will prevail in the North Carolina courts. And we will continue to work with state lawmakers to reform our broken redistricting system that has left far too many without a voice in Raleigh.”

A separate state court case, Common Cause v. Lewis, goes to trial in Wake County Superior Court on July 15. That lawsuit is challenging partisan gerrymandering of North Carolina’s legislative voting maps as violating the state constitution. A victory in that state trial could result in new, fairly drawn NC House and NC Senate districts for the 2020 election.

Because Common Cause v. Lewis is a challenge based on the state constitution, the case is not affected by today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

In addition to fighting partisan gerrymandering in the courts, Common Cause NC is working within the legislature to pass nonpartisan redistricting reform.

A half-dozen bills have been filed this legislative session that would establish a nonpartisan process for drawing North Carolina’s congressional and legislative voting districts. Several of these proposals have broad, bipartisan support among lawmakers, but Republican legislative leaders have not yet allowed any of the bills to be given a vote or even a hearing.

“In order to guard against future gerrymandering, our state needs to enact lasting reform that takes redistricting power out of the hands of politicians and gives it to an impartial body that will draw our voting maps free from partisan politics, with robust public input and full transparency,” Phillips said. “The message from the people of North Carolina is clear – the legislature must act to end gerrymandering now.”

A solid majority of North Carolina voters support impartial redistricting, as shown by a survey conducted in 2018 by Public Policy Polling. That poll found 59 percent of voters in favor of making the map-drawing process nonpartisan, with just 15 percent opposed to reform. Over 300 locally elected leaders from 140 towns and cities across North Carolina have signed a petition calling on the legislature to enact nonpartisan redistricting. And more than 100 North Carolina business leaders have joined the call for an end to gerrymandering.

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