Common Cause v. Rucho could end partisan gerrymandering nationwide
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Common Cause filed its final brief with the U.S. Supreme Court today, three weeks in advance of oral arguments in Rucho v. Common Cause. The case challenges an extreme Republican gerrymander in North Carolina that was found to be unconstitutional twice by a federal district court.
Common Cause is joined as an appellee in the case by the North Carolina Democratic Party and individual voters in 13 Congressional districts. This case was consolidated at the trial court with League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 26.
“There has never been a moment in which the U.S. Supreme Court has appeared closer to significant action to end partisan gerrymandering,” said Kathay Feng, national redistricting director for Common Cause. “The Justices should finally recognize that only judicial action can prevent an explosion of effective and highly scientific gerrymanders that deprive Americans of fundamental democratic rights. This year has the potential to bring revolutionary change that will allow Americans to hold elected officials accountable on Election Day in all 50 states.”
Rucho v. Common Cause Overview
The North Carolina partisan gerrymander was created in 2016 in response to a court order that found several North Carolina districts to be unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered and required the General Assembly to redraw them. The 2016 map was drawn by a Republican mapmaker who had explicit instructions to ensure that there was a 10-3 Republican majority in the congressional delegation.
The map was completed prior to receiving any public feedback and the public was not given a chance to respond to the draft map. In discussing the new map on the floor of the General Assembly, the leading lawmaker who drew districts leaned into a microphone and publicly stated that his goal was “to gain partisan advantage” for the Republican party.
As demonstrated by several leading scientists and mathematicians, the map also clearly cracked and packed other Democratic-leaning communities to prevent their voices from being heard. One egregious example of how partisan gerrymandering hurts communities is the splitting of North Carolina A&T, America’s largest historically black university. The campus population was split down the middle, dividing a large population of young, black voters into two congressional districts, and diluting their ability to elect candidates.
The 2016 gerrymandering was so effective that North Carolina Republicans withstood the blue wave in the midterm elections. Democrats added 40 seats in the House of Representatives, their largest gain since the Watergate election of 1974 and a larger gain than the wave elections of 1982 and 2004. But the red wall in North Carolina largely stood fast, thwarting democratic self-correction. Election-night results reported another 10-3 result in the state. This included a GOP win in Congressional District 3, where the Democratic Party was unable to recruit any candidate, so the Republican candidate ran unopposed.
After election night, reports of election fraud surfaced in Congressional District 9, where Republicans initially were reported to prevail by just 900 votes. On Feb. 21, a new election was ordered. Meanwhile, residents such as our plaintiff, John McNeill who lives in CD9, have no representation in Congress. But for the 2016 Plan’s extreme partisan gerrymandering, this would not have occurred. Analysis shows that plaintiff McNeil would have been placed in a Democratic-majority district, where his vote would have counted, more than 80 percent of the time.
“Letting politicians manipulate voting maps is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse,” Feng said. “Whether they favor Democrats or Republicans, gerrymanders cheat voters. Legislators are supposed to represent everyone, not just people who look like them, the wealthy and those who share their views. We need to reform the rules and create a fair system so that voters are choosing their politicians, instead of politicians choosing their voters.”
To read the full brief, click here