Washington, D.C. (June 30, 2022) — The U.S. Supreme Court decided today it will hear oral arguments during the October 2022 term in North Carolina’s consolidated Congressional gerrymandering case. The case, Moore v. Harper, advances a dangerous legal theory which would allow state legislatures to restrict the freedom to vote and fair elections with impunity.
The decision to take up Moore comes in the wake of the Court’s June 24 precedent-shattering decision in the Dobbs abortion case overturning Roe v. Wade, and upcoming arguments this fall in Milligan v. Merrill, another critical voting rights case challenging Alabama’s voting maps.
North Carolina lawmakers appealed to the nation’s highest court after the N.C. Supreme Court’s historic ruling held partisan gerrymandering illegal under North Carolina’s Constitution and demanded new maps. The decision prompted leaders in the General Assembly to pursue this fringe legal theory, seeking to give legislatures unchecked power to set elections and voting-related policies. Bob Phillips, executive director of plaintiff Common Cause NC called the legislature’s scheme “a radical power grab” by the state’s current legislative leadership to subvert the will of the people for the next decade.
“In a radical power grab, self-serving politicians want to defy our state’s highest court and impose illegal voting districts upon the people of North Carolina,” said Phillips. “We will continue to stand up for the people of our state and nation as this case goes to the U.S. Supreme Court. We must stop this dangerous attack on our freedom to vote.”
Across the country, state lawmakers are asking federal courts to give them unchecked power to manipulate voting districts and dismantle the freedom to vote. Their argument, known as the “independent state legislature theory,” contradicts the U.S. Constitution and federal precedent. The theory ignores the important role the state courts have played in protecting North Carolinians’ constitutional rights against a gerrymandered General Assembly’s attacks on voting rights over the last decade. The consequences will be most profound for communities of color, working people, disabled people, under-resourced communities, and other vulnerable voters in North Carolina and beyond.
“Today’s news from the U.S. Supreme Court makes one thing clear: this fall, the future of multiracial democracy is at stake,” said Allison Riggs, Co-Executive Director and Chief Counsel for Voting Rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which is representing Common Cause in the case. “In Moore, North Carolina lawmakers argue they essentially get a ‘free pass’ to violate state constitutional protections against partisan gerrymandering when drawing districts which undeniably hurt voters. We will vigorously fight these claims and instead advocate on behalf of North Carolinians to prove what the ‘independent state legislature theory’ has been all along — a fringe, desperate, and anti-democratic attack by a gerrymandered legislature.”
Global law firm Hogan Lovells serves as pro bono counsel in this case.
Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision in Moore, the N.C. General Assembly will redraw the state’s current “interim” congressional maps in 2023.
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.
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.