North Carolina Supreme Court blocks maps redistributing GOP territories
The North Carolina Supreme Court has struck down the voting cards issued by the Republican-controlled state legislature, saying they violated the Constitution of the United States in a closely watched case affecting the balance of political power in the state legislature and congressional delegation violated state.
In a split ruling, the court said the Republican-drawn congressional and state legislative districts are unlawful partisan Gerrymanders in violation of provisions of the North Carolina Constitution. The court asked the state parliament to draw new maps.
“The achievement of a party advantage inappropriate to a political party‘s level of nationwide electoral support is neither a compelling nor a legitimate government interest,” the court’s majority said in the order.
The North Carolina High Court ruling, where Democrats have a 4-3 majority, is the latest in a series of redistricting lawsuits being fought across the country in light of the 2020 census.
The court’s three Republican judges disagreed, writing that the ruling “violates the separation of powers by effectively placing responsibility for redistribution of districts in the judiciary, rather than the legislature, as expressly provided for in our constitution.”
Pressure groups and voters filed two lawsuits alleging that maps adopted by the Republican-controlled state legislature unlawfully enshrined a party advantage for the GOP. The cases were consolidated for trial in a lower court.
In January, a panel of three Wake County Superior Court judges upheld North Carolina’s maps, dismissing claims that they had been illegally manipulated to benefit partisans. The panel said there was evidence the voting cards were tampered with to help Republicans but said it had no authority to interfere.
“Redistribution is a political process that has serious political implications,” the panel wrote. “It is one of the purest political questions that only the legislature can answer. If we as a court got involved in the way that is required, we would usurp political power and the prerogatives of equal governance.”
Republican state lawmakers said they led the most transparent map-drawing process in the state’s history. The Republican-controlled state legislature said it has banned the use of partisan or racial data in drawing the new maps.
“Plaintiffs are asking this court to cease acting as a tribunal and instead to act as a political body,” Republican state lawmakers said in a letter to the state Supreme Court. “The North Carolina Constitution has no standard for distinguishing good policy decisions from bad ones.”
North Carolina currently has eight Republican and five Democratic congressmen. The state wins a seat in the House of Representatives due to population growth reflected in the 2020 census.
Under the maps drawn by Republicans, the GOP would have had 10 secure seats out of a total of 14 seats, according to the plaintiff groups. Republicans would also likely retain their majorities in the state legislature under the new map, plaintiffs said.
The bipartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project rated North Carolina’s new maps an “F” for partisan fairness and said the maps gave Republicans a significant advantage.
The North Carolina Supreme Court had already pushed back the state’s primary in March to May to allow time to resolve the litigation. Republicans had approved a bill that would push the primary another three weeks to June, but Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the proposal in January.
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Appeared in the February 5, 2022 print edition as North Carolina GOP Redistricting Maps Rejected.