All Eyes Turn to North Carolina, as SCOTUS Considers Whether to Hear Partisan Gerrymandering Case

A pile of U.S. state maps

The Supreme Court declined on Monday to assess the merits of CLC’s partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin, Gill v. Whitford. Despite that setback, the court did provide a roadmap for how a partisan gerrymandering claim might proceed successfully, the Charlotte News & Observer reported, after a conference call with reporters lead by CLC Vice President Paul Smith. Smith argued Whitford before the Supreme Court in October 2017. This week the focus is shifting to North Carolina, now on the center stage in the fight to rein in the excessive use of map manipulation for political gain. The case is called Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina.

The Supreme Court justices could decide Monday, June 25 whether to hear the North Carolina case or send it back to a lower court.

If it takes the case, the Court could hear it as early as next term in the fall of 2018. CLC is arguing that the justices should not send the case back to the lower court. CLC and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ), joined by University of Chicago Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos, are representing the 12 individual North Carolina voters and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina in the case. We urged the Supreme Court in April to affirm the lower court’s ruling that found the entire state’s plan to be an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Unlike the challenges plaintiffs faced in trying to prove harm caused by the Wisconsin maps, Smith has expressed confidence that the North Carolina case provides a strong opportunity to do so now. He told reporters in the state Wednesday that “we have evidence and findings of individual harm in every district.”

CLC submitted a supplemental brief Wednesday to the Supreme Court addressing requirements laid out by the Court in their recent decision. The brief explains that all thirteen of North Carolina’s current congressional districts were intended to “crack” or “pack” Democratic voters, and did, in fact, crack or pack them in the 2016 election – having its intended impact. As Stephanopoulos points out in a blog post yesterday, going forward, challengers to gerrymandered maps are unlikely to face the standing obstacle that frustrated plaintiffs Monday.

The district court in North Carolina unanimously found in January that North Carolina’s lawmakers manipulated the state’s congressional voting maps to lock in their own political party’s power, with little regard for the will of voters. In the 2016 election, Republican congressional candidates in North Carolina won ten out of thirteen seats, even though the statewide vote was nearly tied and North Carolina is a purple state. An expert that examined the map determined that the North Carolina plan exhibited the largest partisan bias of any congressional map in the country. CLC senior legal counsel Ruth Greenwood told the New York Times at the time that the state’s gerrymander “was one of the most extreme in history.”

Learn more about the North Carolina case by visiting CLC’s case page.

Corey handles media relations for the CLC voting rights and redistricting teams and creates online content. Follow @cgfromdc on Twitter
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