On March 26, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in two landmark redistricting cases that could fundamentally change the future of American democracy. In our case Rucho v. Common Cause, we argued that North Carolina Republicans violated the Constitutional rights of Democrats through an extreme partisan gerrymander that gave the GOP a 10-3 advantage in House seats despite earning just over half of the votes. In Lamone v. Benisek, which was originated by a Common Cause member, plaintiffs argued that Maryland Democrats violated the First Amendment rights of Republicans when they redrew a congressional district to flip it from Red to Blue.
In our democracy, voters get to choose who holds office to represent them. But gerrymandering flips that on its head — letting politicians manipulate their legislative districts so they can pick and choose their own voters. It’s time for a change.
Rucho v. Common Cause
Why does this matter?
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 people who look like them, the wealthy and/or those who share their views.
We sued because legislators and mapmakers robbed North Carolinians of their ability to elect the candidates of their choice through a blatant partisan gerrymander. Republican legislators publicly and repeatedly stated that their goal was to gerrymander congressional districts in favor of one party 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.
What are the legal claims?
The North Carolina partisan gerrymander is in clear violation of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and Article I, sections 2 and 4 (the Elections Clause) of the United States Constitution.
Who are the plaintiffs?
Common Cause, the North Carolina Democratic Party, 14 Democratic voters and one Republican voter. There is at least one plaintiff from in each of the state’s 13 congressional districts.
What are the facts?
The North Carolina partisan gerrymander was created 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. While public input was solicited, the map was completed prior to receiving any 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.
In a clear example of weakening the political power of black voters, America’s largest historically black university, North Carolina A&T, is split down the middle and divided into two congressional districts. As demonstrated by several leading scientists and mathematicians, the map also clearly cracks and packs North Carolina communities to prevent their voices from being heard.
Where is the case now?
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear Rucho v. Common Cause today, March 26th. On August 27, 2018, a three-judge panel of the trial court issued a 321-page opinion finding that Plaintiffs had standing to bring all of our claims and that the 2016 map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The North Carolina General Assembly agreed to file a speedy appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in exchange for the trial court staying its own order agreeing to hear oral arguments.