Lawsuit over NC map gerrymandering dismissed by state supreme court

 April 29, 2023

A lower court ruling that struck down voting maps in North Carolina that the court said were gerrymandered by the GOP was overturned by the state Supreme Court using the argument that the courts were not supposed to make decisions about what constitutes gerrymandering.

The court's decision was 5-2, and it impacts a pending U.S. Supreme Court case that was filed after the previously 4-3 Democrat-controlled state supreme court upheld the decision to throw out the maps.

After the midterm elections, the court's composition changed to its current 5-2 Republican majority, and the court decided to rehear the case--something that rarely happens.

“Our constitution expressly assigns the redistricting authority to the General Assembly subject to explicit limitations in the text. Those limitations do not address partisan gerrymandering. It is not within the authority of this Court to amend the constitution to create such limitations on a responsibility that is textually assigned to another branch,” North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby wrote for the majority.

Is this the end?

The new decision could lead the U.S. Supreme Court to drop the case, since it has now been resolved to the satisfaction of Republicans who appealed it, or it could continue to consider the case.

The main argument Republicans used in the Supreme Court arguments is a maximalist one, that the Constitution doesn't give the courts the power to limit legislative control over election laws, which means that it shouldn't have any jurisdiction over electoral maps.

It's a similar argument to the one that convinced the state supreme court, so there may not be much point to continuing the case on the national level.

Gerrymandering has been a problem from the beginning of U.S. politics, because it is only natural that when one party finds itself in control of the legislature, it would redraw legislative districts to benefit itself.

The Constitution either did not foresee this problem occurring or did not care about it, since it was not addressed there.

Republican supermajority

After the case was filed last year, North Carolina Republicans were forced to redraw the maps Democrats said were heavily gerrymandered in the GOP's favor. Even without the original maps, Republicans won many state races and gained new majorities, as with the state supreme court, or solidified existing majorities.

Following the midterms, the North Carolina legislature was only one vote short of a supermajority.

When Mecklenburg County Rep. Tricia Cotham changed parties earlier in the month, it gained a veto-proof majority.

The legislature can now challenge its Democrat Governor Roy Cooper, and override his veto if all Republicans are in agreement.

This happened even without the so-called gerrymandered maps, so it will be interesting to see whether lawmakers revert to the maps they submitted in February 2022 or stick with the ones that found them such success.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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