In America, no liberty is more fundamental than the right to freely choose our representatives through voting. Learn more about some of the most important ongoing and recent court cases impacting fair representation and gerrymandering:
Moore v. Harper
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Wednesday, December 7th, 2022 in North Carolina’s consolidated congressional gerrymandering case, Moore v. Harper. North Carolina’s Republican legislators advance a dangerous legal theory which would allow state legislatures to restrict the freedom to vote and upend fair elections with impunity. A decision in the case is expected by June 2023. Read our press release here.
BACKGROUND: On December 13, 2021, Common Cause North Carolina, represented by Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Hogan Lovells, intervened in the consolidated cases of Harper v. Hall and League of Conservation Voters v. Hall. Specifically, we argued that the North Carolina Legislature’s process for drawing state legislative and Congressional voting maps ignored long-standing precedent and resulted in extreme partisan gerrymanders in violation of the North Carolina State Constitution. The motion to intervene challenged the Legislature’s maps themselves, alleging that state legislators crafted illegal partisan gerrymanders with devastating consequences for Black voters and their ability to elect the candidates of their choice.
The Legislative Defendants’ position 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, and remove the critical checks and balances provided by state courts and under state constitutions.
After the North Carolina Supreme Court found that the House, Senate, and Congressional maps drawn by the NC General Assembly were unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders in violation of North Carolina law, the Legislative Defendants filed an emergency stay at the United States Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected North Carolina legislators’ attempt to reinstate gerrymandered maps in March 2022 but granted certiorari to consider the case in June 2022. The Court will hear oral arguments on December 7, 2022.
Fair Maps Texas Action Committee v. Abbott
Common Cause Texas and our allies in the state are arguing that the state’s congressional and state legislative districts are illegal racial gerrymanders. The trial date is pending.
Agee v. Benson
On March 23, 2022, a group of Michigan voters filed a federal lawsuit against Michigan’s Secretary of State and the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC). Agee v. Benson is a federal court case challenging Michigan’s state legislative maps for violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. This challenge concerns the ability of Black voters to elect candidates of their choice. The plaintiffs request a court order requiring the MICRC to either redraw the districts not in compliance with the VRA and 14th Amendment or to adopt a proposed remedy map.
In the joint amicus brief filed with Michigan State University professor Jon X. Eguia, Common Cause argues that the court should scrutinize Michigan’s state Senate map further to determine whether it dilutes Black voting power, particularly in Detroit. Statistical evidence of computer-generated maps clearly demonstrates that the MICRC could have drawn more state Senate districts in which Black Michiganders can elect their candidates of choice. The brief also argues that the MICRC failed to consider community testimony in which experts, educators, and Detroit residents expressed concern over the lack of representation.
Common Cause Florida et al v. Lee
UPDATE – November 8, 2022: The three-judge panel denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss our complaint, which argues that Florida’s current congressional maps were created as a product of intentional racial discrimination in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments. The court is satisfied that we have presented the factual allegations on “all of [the] signposts” necessary to support our arguments. This case now moves forward to discovery and eventual trial. Read our release here.
Common Cause Florida, Fair Districts Now, and a group of individual plaintiffs from across the state filed a federal lawsuit in the Northern District of Florida arguing that the court must step in to ensure voters, candidates, and elections officials have a fair congressional map in ample time for the 2022 elections. The complaint argues that since the Florida legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis have come to an impasse and are unable to pass a congressional map, and the current Florida congressional map is malapportioned, the court must stop Florida from holding any election under the current map and establish a new, constitutionally sound map.
On April 29, 2022, Common Cause Florida, Fair Districts Now, individual plaintiffs were joined by the Florida State Chapter of the NAACP in filing an amended complaint. The amended complaint argues that the newly passed congressional map is the result of intentional discrimination against Black voters in Florida by Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments. Read the release here.
Common Cause, et al. v. Brad Raffensperger
Common Cause, et al. v. Brad Raffensperger, et al., was brought on behalf of Common Cause, the League of Women Voters of Georgia, and individual Georgians. They are being represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Dechert LLP. The lawsuit, filed in federal court, charges that the 6th, 13th, and 14th Congressional Districts of Georgia violate the Constitution and unlawfully diminish the voting power of voters of color.
The lawsuit highlights both the long history of the white majority in Georgia using racial discrimination to maintain political power and the persistent need for the federal government to step in to ensure maps allocate political power in a way that does not violate federal law or the Constitution. The suit charges that the newly drawn congressional map violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by intentionally denying Black communities in Georgia representation and therefore equal protection of the law.
On February 3rd, the case was consolidated with Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. State of Georgia.
Legislature of the State of California v. Padilla
In light of the Census Bureau’s delay in the delivery of census data due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the California State Legislature petitioned the California Supreme Court to extend the deadlines for submission of new district maps by the state’s independent redistricting commission. California Common Cause, along with the League of Women Voters of California and former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, submitted an amicus letter to the Court in support of the Legislature’s petition. On July 17, 2020, the California Supreme Court granted the Legislature’s petition, extending the state’s redistricting deadlines in light of the census data delay.
Florida Congressional Redistricting 2022 – Advisory Opinion
On February 1st, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis requested an advisory opinion from the Florida Supreme Court on whether he would be required to veto certain configurations of congressional district 5. Common Cause and FairDistrictsNow filed a response to the Governor’s request arguing that the Florida Supreme Court should not take jurisdiction because there was no final map for the Court to review and any decision from the court would be impermissible intervention in the legislative process.
The Supreme Court declined to take jurisdiction over the request for an advisory opinion, leaving the question of the constitutionality of congressional district 5 for another day.
NC NAACP v. Berger
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) and pro bono counsel with Hogan Lovells, on behalf of plaintiffs Common Cause, the North Carolina NAACP, and individual voters, filed a state lawsuit challenging the North Carolina Legislature’s process for drawing new N.C. House and Senate voting maps. North Carolina’s first redistricting lawsuit in the 2021 redistricting cycle, NC NAACP v. Berger sought to block the proposed state legislative districts for failing to consider race during the initial stages of the map-making process in ways that could harm representation of Black North Carolinians.
Once the state enacted its redistricting plan, the North Carolina Superior Court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction as moot. On appeal, the North Carolina Superior Court affirmed the dismissal but noted that the Plaintiffs could seek to intervene in Moore v. Harper.
Common Cause v. Simon (MN)
Common Cause Minnesota, along with OneMN.org, Voices for Racial Justice, and seven individual Minnesota voters, have filed an Intervention Petition in the Minnesota Supreme Court to join a lawsuit to ensure that people of color are represented during the state’s redistricting process. This intervention demands that Minnesota’s Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities have their interests represented when new U.S. House and state legislative maps are drawn.
Carter/Gressman v. Chapman (PA)
On December 31, 2021, Common Cause PA’s Executive Director Khalif Ali joined plaintiffs from across the state in filing an Application to Intervene in the ongoing congressional redistricting litigation currently before the Commonwealth Court. Plaintiffs are represented by the Public Interest Law Center and Dechert, LLP. The litigation generally calls on the Court to take over the congressional mapmaking process if the General Assembly and Pennsylvania Governor are unable to agree on a map. Additionally, Khalif and the other plaintiffs will argue that the court should ensure that any map follows the redistricting criteria laid out in League of Women Voters of PA v. Commonwealth including protecting communities of interest, that partisan considerations including attempts to benefit any incumbent or candidate should not overtake the LWVPA criteria, and that the Court should use data that is adjusted to count incarcerated individuals in their homes, not their cells.
On February 23, 2022, the PA Supreme Court issued an order selecting the map proposed by the Carter plaintiffs. Read our statement on the map here.
On March 9th, The PA Supreme Court released their opinions on the case. Read the opinions by clicking the link below:
2020 Redistricting Ballot Initiative Signature Gathering Cases
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it very difficult to gather signatures for ballot initiative campaigns to reform redistricting. Activists in Arkansas and Nevada sued in federal court to change state law and reduce the barriers that make signature-gathering challenging during a public health crisis. Learn about each case.
Common Cause v. Trump
On July 23, 2020, Common Cause sued the President in the D.C. federal District Court for this unconstitutional move to deprive cities and communities with large immigrant populations of equal representation in Congress and to threaten their ability to access federal resources that rely on census data.
Free Elections Clauses
State courts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania struck down state legislative and congressional districts, respectively, under each state constitution’s version of a “free elections” clause. The courts in both cases ruled that these clauses provide greater protections for voters than what the U.S. Constitution provides. This could be an important tool in challenging gerrymanders when districts across the country are redrawn next year.
Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission
Common Cause led the organizing of amicus briefs in a successful effort to defend the constitutionality of independent citizen redistricting commissions.
League of Women Voters of Florida v. Detzner
Common Cause was a co-plaintiff in separate challenges to Florida’s congressional and state senate map. Common Cause’s impartial maps ultimately were adopted by Florida courts to remedy a blatant partisan gerrymander. Working with allies, we successfully demonstrated partisan intent and forced new districts to be drawn. In the case of both congressional and state senate districts, our impartial maps were adopted.
Hooker v. Illinois Board of Elections
We filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of Illinois supporting the placement of the Illinois Independent Map Amendment on the November ballot. Illinois is another state in which Democrats manipulated districts for partisan advantage. The court voted on a party-line basis to keep the reform initiative off of the 2016 ballot.
Daunt v. Benson and Michigan Republican Party v. Benson
Political insiders tried to strike back at Michigan voters for passing a ballot initiative to take the power to draw districts away from politicians and creating an independent citizens redistricting commission. A federal district court and a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the plaintiffs’ challenge to the commission. On June 18, 2020, the full Sixth Circuit denied the plaintiffs’ request for a rehearing.
Lamone v. Benisek (MD)
In a case originally brought by a Common Cause Maryland member, Steve Shapiro, plaintiffs argue that Maryland’s congressional map is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Following the 2010 census, the Democratic governor and Democrats in the legislature successfully conspired to draw districts that would ensure the defeat of one of the state’s two Republican members of Congress. After a unanimous vote in the U.S. Supreme Court allowing the case to proceed, the case went to trial. On November 7, 2018, the trial court ruled that Maryland’s Sixth Congressional District violates the First Amendment rights of Maryland voters. Maryland appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which was decided jointly with Rucho v. Common Cause on June 27, 2019.
Common Cause v. Lewis (NC)
Common Cause is a plaintiff in a successful challenge to North Carolina’s state legislative maps. After some of the state House and state Senate districts were struck down as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders in 2017, leaders in the legislature redrew districts on partisan grounds. And it worked. In both the state House and state Senate elections in 2018, Democratic candidates won a majority of the statewide vote, but Republicans still won a substantial majority of the seats in each chamber. Common Cause sued on the grounds that the 2017 plans are unconstitutional, invalid and impervious to the will of the voters. Common Cause asked the state court to rule that partisan gerrymandering violates the North Carolina Constitution, to prevent the defendants from using the 2017 Plans for the 2020 primary and general elections, and to establish new plans for the 2020 elections that comply with the state constitution. The trial court ruled in our favor and struck down the maps. The court approved new maps on October 28, 2019.
Rucho v. Common Cause (NC)
Common Cause was a plaintiff in a challenge to North Carolina’s congressional map that the U.S. Supreme Court heard earlier this year. After the map was struck down as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander in 2016, leaders in the legislature announced that they would redraw districts with the explicit intent to ensure that 10 of 13 remain in Republican control. Common Cause sued on the grounds that the new districts are an illegal partisan gerrymander. The trial court ruled in our favor on all counts. Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision, ruling in a 5-4 opinion that partisan gerrymandering is a non-justiciable political question that federal courts cannot police.
Favors v. Cuomo (NY)
In New York, Common Cause drew an impartial congressional map which was adopted in major part by the federal court, resulting in fair congressional districts in New York State. As a result, New York has become a battleground for control of Congress, with voters empowered to choose their own representatives in numerous districts.
People Not Politicians Oregon v. Clarno
On July 10, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane ruled that Oregon violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of Common Cause Oregon and our allies in the People Not Politicians Oregon coalition by adhering strictly to ballot initiative signature requirements during a pandemic. Judge McShane ordered Oregon’s secretary of state to either accept the more than 64,000 signatures the coalition has already submitted and place the redistricting reform initiative on the November 2020 ballot or give the campaign until August 17, 2020 to collect 58,789 signatures.
Abbott v. Perez (TX)
Following the 2010 census, the Texas State Legislature drew U.S. House of Representatives and Texas House of Representatives districts that weakened the voting strength of minority voters. Their goal was to ensure partisan advantage and the means of doing so was to make it harder for people of color to elect their candidates of choice. As the trial court ruled, this violates the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court heard Texas’s appeal of the trial court decision, consolidated cases both titled Abbott v. Perez, on April 24, 2018. Common Cause filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff-appellees challenging the maps. On June 25, 2018, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court ruling and held that only one state legislative district was an illegal racial gerrymander.
Evenwel v. Abbott (TX)
Common Cause offered a brief advancing a legal theory cited in parts of the decision that when drawing state legislative districts, effective constituent service requires counting every resident and not just voters. We also organized a separate brief signed by 19 counties and cities across the country in support of equal representation.
Gil v. Whitford (WI)
The Campaign Legal Center won a historic victory when a federal court struck down Wisconsin’s State Assembly map as an illegal partisan gerrymander. Wisconsin appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in October 2017. Common Cause is one of the lead organizations that managed amicus briefs supporting the plaintiffs’ efforts. The briefs demonstrated the broad and bipartisan support for an end to the manipulation of our legislative districts. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Rucho v. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek effectively ended this case.