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Common Cause v. Rucho

BREAKING: Supreme Court vacates lower court decision and remands case to trial court in light of Gill v. Whitford despite standing established by Common Cause plaintiffs.

What’s the issue?

North Carolinians were robbed of their ability to elect the candidates of their choice through a blatant partisan gerrymander by the legislature. Republican legislators publicly and repeatedly stated that their goal was to gerrymander congressional districts to ensure an overwhelming Republican majority despite an evenly split electorate. They produced district lines that effectively let them choose the voters rather than permitting voters to choose their representatives. That’s the exact opposite of government of the people, by the people, and for the people as promised in our Constitution. Whether they favor Democrats or Republicans, gerrymanders cheat voters.

When elected officials don’t have to worry about getting reelected, they lose their incentive to be responsive to constituents. Legislators are supposed to represent everyone, not just the wealthy and/or those who share their views. We must replace the backroom deals in which politicians draw districts for political advantage with real transparency and impartial redistricting systems so the results of our elections will truly reflect the will of the people.

What’s the case?

The North Carolina gerrymander is in clear violation of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and Article I, sections 2 and 4 of the Constitution, relating to the manner in which representatives are popularly elected. Fortunately, the trial court agreed with us. This case presents compelling evidence that will make its way to the United States Supreme Court at a time when the court seems more open than ever to the idea of striking down a partisan gerrymander. This case was the first successful constitutional challenge to a partisan congressional gerrymander, and could set nationwide rules that prevent gerrymanders in the future.

 

Background

Common Cause opposes all forms of gerrymandering as an abuse of power, regardless of party. Common Cause has been actively involved in fighting gerrymandering by Democrats and Republicans for many years.

In the Courts

  • Common Cause led the organizing of Supreme Court amicus briefs in Benisek v. Lamone, a challenge to Maryland’s blatant Democratic gerrymander in the wake of the 2010 Census. Steve Shapiro, a Democrat and member of Common Cause Maryland, challenged his own party. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on March 28, 2018.
  • Common Cause was part of the team leading the organizing of amicus briefs in Gill v. Whitford, a partisan gerrymandering case the Supreme Court heard on October 3, 2017. The Court is likely to decide the case in the summer of 2018.
  • In Evenwel v. Abbott, Common Cause offered a brief advancing a legal theory cited in parts of the decision that effective constituent service to the public requires counting every resident —  not just voters — when drawing state legislative districts.
  • Common Cause’s impartial maps were ultimately adopted by Florida courts to remedy a blatant partisan gerrymander. Working with allies, we successfully proved partisan intent and forced new districts to be drawn. In the case of both congressional and state senate districts, our impartial maps were adopted.
  • We filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of Illinois supporting the placement of Illinois’ Independent Map Amendment on the November 2016 ballot in another state in which Democrats manipulated districts for partisan advantage.

In the States

Common Cause is actively working in many states to move impartial solutions to gerrymandering. Until the U.S. Supreme Court decides that it is time to end gerrymandering nationally, the citizen-activists of Common Cause continue to promote solutions – such as impartial commissions, the participation of nonpartisan agencies, unbiased and clear standards, and transparency requirements – that already work in several states. Click on each state in the map above to find out more about their work.

In Academia

Common Cause’s Partisan Gerrymandering Writing Competition is generating important scholarship and making a difference in court. Common Cause sponsors a writing competition to generate academic papers useful to litigators to make the case that partisan gerrymandering violates the U.S. Constitution. Two different winners served as expert witnesses in the North Carolina cases. After a federal court ruled that Virginia’s congressional map was an illegal racial gerrymander, we collaborated with another set of winners to submit a brief to the court. This brief, the only one of its kind, guided the court expert chosen to redraw districts by assessing the partisan fairness of proposed replacement maps the public submitted.

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