A three-judge federal district court panel in North Carolina again ruled in Common Cause v. Rucho that the North Carolina General Assembly violated the U.S. Constitution in 2016 when legislators manipulated congressional districts for partisan advantage. The panel reached the same conclusion in January, but the Supreme Court of the United States vacated and remanded the decision this June following its decision in Gill v. Whitford. The Justices asked the trial court panel to reexamine whether plaintiffs had standing to sue. The panel confirmed standing and the original finding of constitutional violations in today’s decision. The North Carolina General Assembly is likely to appeal the decision. Appeals of three-judge panel redistricting decisions go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, so the case could be heard there in the next year.
According to the court’s decision, “we further conclude that Gill did not call into question — and, if anything, supported — this Court’s previous determination that Plaintiffs have standing to assert partisan gerrymandering claims.”
“Common Cause and our partners in this lawsuit took the fight to politicians who manipulate our democracy and we won,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause president. “We anticipate an appeal and are ready to turn legislators’ brazen partisan gerrymander into a historic ruling in the Supreme Court to end the practice nationwide.”
“Although North Carolina’s loud and proud admission that legislators drew districts for partisan advantage is unusual, the practice is universal when politicians are in charge,” said Kathay Feng, Common Cause national redistricting director. “Until we prohibit partisan gerrymandering, a true representative democracy will remain out of reach and the voices of all Americans will continue to be silent.”
“While we look forward to having our landmark case now go before the highest court in the land, it’s regrettable that North Carolina voters this November will be voting in congressional districts that have been found unconstitutional,” said Bob Phillips, Common Cause North Carolina executive director. “We the people deserve better. It’s time for state lawmakers to do their part and pass redistricting reform.”
Common Cause v. Rucho was originally consolidated with League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho. In 2016, a federal court ordered the North Carolina General Assembly to redraw the state’s congressional map because two districts were illegal racial gerrymanders. State Rep. David Lewis announced publicly and legislators placed in the official redistricting criteria that maintaining a 10-3 Republican advantage would be a primary goal of the new map. As it had decided in January, the trial court panel again determined that the districts violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments along with Article I, section 2 and exceeds the authority granted to the states in Article I, section 4 of the Constitution.
To read the decision, click here.