SCSJ, Common Cause Repudiate NC Lawmakers’ Attempts to Entrench Partisan Power
Washington, D.C. (May 20, 2022) — A state legislature cannot make elections and voting rules with impunity, according to a new filing which asks the U.S. Supreme Court to reject legislators’ attempt to overturn the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision striking down the legislature’s gerrymandered Congressional map.
On Friday, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and pro bono counsel Hogan Lovells, on behalf of plaintiff Common Cause NC, filed a brief in opposition to North Carolina lawmakers’ request for the high court to review the constitutionality of a special-master drawn voting map. The lawmakers’ petition relies on a dangerous and unprecedented “independent state legislature theory,” which, if accepted, would give the North Carolina General Assembly unchecked power to dramatically upend legal protections governing voting rights and redistricting. The legal filings come amidst nationwide concerns that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, before hearing arguments this October in Milligan v. Merrill, a case challenging Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
“The Court should refuse to give the legislature a free pass to manipulate Congressional voting districts to entrench their own power and in violation of North Carolinians’ state Constitutional rights,” said Hilary Harris Klein, Senior Counsel for Voting Rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “North Carolinians deserve responsive and fair maps. If lawmakers get their way, it will have devastating effects on elections for years to come, especially for Black voters.”
The move from North Carolina legislators comes after the Wake County Superior Court struck down lawmakers’ own court-ordered remedial Congressional map in a Feb. 23 order in Harper et al. v. Hall et al, and instead enacted a Special Master-drawn “interim” map. The trial court accepted the legislature’s remedial state House and Senate maps over objections from Common Cause that these maps still unlawfully diminish the ability of Black voters in Eastern North Carolina to elect candidates of their choice. The North Carolina Supreme Court denied requests from Plaintiffs and Defendants for emergency stays of their remedial order, allowing the legislature’s remedial state House and Senate maps to go forward, as well as the “interim” Congressional map put in place by the trial court.
“Politicians in the legislature illegally manipulated North Carolina’s voting maps and lost their case in state court. Instead of respecting the court’s ruling, these same partisan legislators are now pursuing a reckless ploy that could jeopardize freedoms guaranteed to every North Carolinian in our state Constitution,” said Bob Phillips, Executive Director of Common Cause NC. “These politicians want to impose gerrymandered districts upon the people of North Carolina and claim virtually limitless, unchecked authority over our state’s elections. The U.S. Supreme Court should emphatically reject the legislative defendants’ radical attempt to undermine our constitutional rights as North Carolinians. Rather than trying to grab unconstitutional political power, legislators should focus on working for the people of our state.”
“Our opponents are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hold that North Carolina courts cannot review North Carolina laws for compliance with the state’s own Constitution,” said Hogan Lovells partner Neal Katyal. “That is a dangerous and unprecedented theory that has no grounding in constitutional law. It runs counter to a century’s worth of the U.S. Supreme Court’s precedent. And adopting the theory would inject chaos into the electoral system. The U.S. Supreme Court should reject this request.”
Hogan Lovells partner Tom Boer added: “We value the opportunity to represent Common Cause and its members, and to work side-by-side with counsel at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, in our continuing efforts to ensure that all elections in North Carolina proceed in accord with state constitutional protections and that every individual’s vote – regardless of race or political belief – counts equally.”
No matter what the Court decides, lawmakers will begin drawing a new Congressional map again in 2023. The expert-drawn map is “interim,” in place only for the 2022 election.
Bryan Warner, BWarner@commoncause.org, 919-599-7541; Common Cause NC
Melissa Boughton, email@example.com, 830-481-6901; SCSJ
Ritchenya A. Dodd, firstname.lastname@example.org, 347-271-2037; Hogan Lovells
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.
Global law firm Hogan Lovells has a long tradition of supporting ground-breaking social developments, focusing on access to justice and the rule of law. As lawyers we recognize this commitment is part of our professional practice and collectively we spend 150,000+ pro bono hours per year on work to achieve lasting impact for others.