Plaintiffs Victory in Partisan Gerrymandering Case Shifts Focus Back to Supreme Court
The Supreme Court could hear case in the 2018-19 term in time for new maps in 2020
WASHINGTON – Today, a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina reaffirmed its decision from January striking down the state’s congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The decision in League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho was issued after the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the district court to consider whether or not the plaintiffs had standing to bring the case. In today’s decision, the lower court confirmed that in the consolidated cases, plaintiffs have standing to challenge each of the 13 congressional districts. It is expected that today’s decision will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could hear the case in the upcoming term that begins in October.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), Campaign Legal Center (CLC), and University of Chicago Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos represent the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and 12 individual North Carolina plaintiffs. “Once again, a bipartisan panel of judges agree that the legislature went too far in its efforts to gerrymander election districts in a way that discriminates against voters based on their political beliefs and predetermines the outcome of elections before a single vote is cast,”said Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “Elections should have consequences. Unfortunately, every congressional election in North Carolina so far this decade has deprived the voters of the ability to hold elected officials accountable through the democratic process. The court recognized that such actions are unconstitutional. The people of North Carolina deserve better.”
Should the case be heard this term, as expected, North Carolina voters could have fair and legal maps drawn in time to be used in the 2020 elections. The case has the potential to reshape future redistricting nationwide by limiting politicians’ ability to discriminate against voters who favor a minority party as those politicians control the process of drawing electoral districts.
“North Carolina has had one of the most severely gerrymandered maps in modern American history for almost a full decade, and it can no longer stand,” said Ruth Greenwood, senior legal counsel, voting rights and redistricting at CLC. “This fall, North Carolina voters are about to endure their fourth election cycle with a blatantly gerrymandered congressional map. Given the timing, we expect the Supreme Court to hear this case in the upcoming 2018-2019 term. Our clients in North Carolina are ready for a ruling from the Supreme Court that finally declares that voters, not lawmakers, come first.”
A companion case, brought by lead plaintiff Common Cause and others, also moves forward with today’s decision. The earlier findings by the district court as to the violation of the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights were also reiterated today.
Read more about the case: Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina.