Gerrymander fight through North Carolina State Supreme Court – IMPORTANT
from Diane Amos
This is what I’ve been looking for as I thought our NC Supreme Court could still challenge our gerrymandered state. They did it in Pennsylvania, so hopefully we can do it here. Read below….I’ve bolded and underlined the hope for NC.
Redistricting: On Thursday, the Supreme Court’s Republican majority dealt a historic defeat to redistricting reformers when it ruled 5-4 that challenges to partisan gerrymandering could not be adjudicated under the U.S. Constitution, pushing the next battles over these maps to the states. Immediately afterward, in a fractured opinion, the court punted on whether the Trump administration could weaponize the census against Democrats and voters of color, sending the case back to the administration to come up with a new justification for adding the question.
By blocking any federal court limits on partisan gerrymandering, the Supreme Court has now opened up the floodgates for a wave of even more extreme gerrymandering. As a result, the court has given its blessing to a system that has disproportionately allowed Republicans to lock in enduring advantages at both the federal and the state levels.
In the census case, smoking-gun documents revealed the citizenship question is designed to undermine the representation of Democrats and people of color in redistricting, but the Supreme Court has by no means foreclosed the possibility of ultimately allowing it. Instead, the court’s Republican justices have set up a second fight over whether the Trump administration can come up with a better rationale for adding it—one that gives Chief Justice John Roberts, who has always been concerned with his personal reputation and that of the court, a stronger veneer of plausible deniability that he isn’t eviscerating the rule of law in a plot to entrench permanent Republican rule.
The two cases under review dealt with congressional maps from a pair of states: a Democratic gerrymander in Maryland and a Republican gerrymander in North Carolina. Holding that there was no workable standard to determine when such maps go too far despite smoking gun admissions from the offending parties, the Supreme Court’s partisan Republican majority overturned two lower court decisions that had thrown out both maps last year.
The Supreme Court had repeatedly held since the 1980s that partisan gerrymandering could theoretically violate the Constitution but had never actually invalidated any particular map on such grounds, saying it lacked a standard to decide when to do so. The district courts that heard both cases were nevertheless able to come up with a set of applicable standards and struck down both maps in 2018, but the Supreme Court’s reversal of those rulings precludes any further challenges to partisan gerrymandering under the U.S. Constitution.
The damage will be felt beyond just North Carolina and Maryland, though: While waiting for a resolution to this case, lower federal courts had struck down Republican gerrymanders in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin under standards similar to those relied on in North Carolina. These rulings will soon be swiftly overturned.
But this isn’t the end of the line for court cases against partisan gerrymandering: Plaintiffs will have to pursue them at the state level and argue them under protections contained in state constitutions, which almost universally guarantee the right to vote.
That’s precisely the approach Democrats took in Pennsylvania last year, with great success. After gaining a majority on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court, Democrats attacked the GOP’s extreme congressional gerrymander under the state constitution. The court replaced the map with fairer linesthat led to a much more equitable partisan balance in the state’s House delegation following the 2018 midterms.
The same outcome is also likely in North Carolina, where the Democratic-majority Supreme Court appears poised to follow suit by striking down the GOP’s legislative gerrymanders. Any state with a progressive-oriented supreme court could likewise follow the same path.
Democrats will also need to wage this fight at the ballot box. Democrats can block future gerrymanders by winning key governorships and state legislative chambers, and they can also put forward ballot initiatives to ban gerrymandering, as they have in several states. Lastly, House Democrats passed the For the People Act in March, which would reform congressional redistricting nationally. Mitch McConnell has sneered that he’ll never bring the bill up for a vote, but a future Democratic president and Senate could pass it into law.
The Supreme Court could have chosen to strike a vital blow in the battle to reign in partisan gerrymandering, but they did the opposite on Thursday. But the fight isn’t over, and proponents of fair maps still have avenues to fight back.