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 redistricting litigation cases impacting fair representation and gerrymandering:
Active Redistricting Litigation Cases
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.
Common Cause Florida et al v. Byrd
UPDATE: The trial in Common Cause Florida et al v Byrd begins on September 26, 2023 in Tallahassee and is expected to go for two weeks.
Common Cause Florida, Fair Districts Now, the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, and individual voters from across Florida have filed this litigation in federal court in arguing that the Florida General Assembly and Governor DeSantis engaged in intentional racial discrimination in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution in crafting the state’s current congressional map by denying Black voters their right to elect candidates of their choice.
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 redistricting litigation suit 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 3, 2022, the case was consolidated with Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. State of Georgia. On October 17, 2023 the defendants’ motions for summary judgment were denied by the court. This case will proceed to trial mid-November.
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 redistricting litigation 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.
Republican Party of New Mexico v. Oliver
On July 5, 2023, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in Republican Party of New Mexico v. Oliver that partisan gerrymandering violates the Equal Protection Clause of the New Mexico Constitution. This case challenges the state’s congressional map, which legislators approved in 2021. The New Mexico Supreme Court adopted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s three-part test from her Rucho v. Common Cause dissent as its new partisan gerrymander standard. The state Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court to determine whether the congressional map passes constitutional muster. Common Cause New Mexico, the League of Women Voters of New Mexico, and the Election Reformers Network joined social science experts to file an amicus brief on August 14, 2023 in the trial court. The brief does not support either party but provides guidance to the trial court about the various tools it can use to determine whether a voting map is unlawful.
LWV Utah v. Utah State Legislature
On May 19th, 2023 Common Cause submitted an amicus brief in support of plaintiffs League of Women Voters of Utah and Mormon Women for Ethical Government who assert that the alteration of Proposition 4 violated the Utah Constitution’s right to direct lawmaking through ballot initiative and that the Congressional districts enacted by the Legislature after the 2020 Census were a partisan gerrymander.
In 2018, Utah voters passed Prop 4, a ballot initiative creating an advisory citizens redistricting commission to conduct a nonpartisan and transparent process to draw the state’s voting districts. The initiative required the legislature to take an up or down vote on maps the commission provides, prohibited partisan gerrymandering, and included nonpartisan criteria focused on the needs of communities over partisan politics. Almost immediately, the Utah legislature gutted these reforms by eliminating the requirement that the legislature vote on maps the commission produces and the initiative’s nonpartisan criteria. In addition, the legislature eliminated the power the initiative gave to private citizens to sue if the legislature did not vote on a commission-drawn map.
After going across the state, conducting open hearings, and receiving detailed input from Utahns about their communities, the commission submitted maps to the legislature for approval. The legislature then drew new districts before the commission’s work was even completed, ignored the commission’s drafts, and approved maps that completely disregarded the extensive public outreach the commission conducted.
Recently Decided Redistricting Litigation Cases
Moore v. Harper
The U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion on June 27th, 2023 in Moore v. Harper, rejecting the radical independent state legislature theory. North Carolina’s Republican legislators advanced this dangerous legal theory which would have allowed state legislatures to restrict the freedom to vote and upend fair elections with impunity.
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 relied 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.
Florida Congressional Redistricting 2022 – Advisory Opinion
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.
Common Cause v. Simon (aka Corrie v. Simon) (MN)
Common Cause Minnesota, along with OneMN.org, Voices for Racial Justice, and seven individual Minnesota voters, joined an impasse lawsuit to ensure that people of color were represented during the state’s redistricting process. Because of our lawsuit, Minnesota’s Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities had their interests represented, resulting the court drawing 9 majority BIPOC districts in the House Plans, and 5 in the Senate Plans, as well as 22 opportunity districts in the House, 10 in the Senate. Neither the Democrats nor Republicans advocated for these districts, despite the fact that 100% of Minnesota’s population growth in the past decade is from BIPOC communities.
Past Redistricting Litigation Cases (A-Z)
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.