A divided North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the state’s new redistricting maps for congressional and General Assembly seats Friday.
By a 4-3 decision – with the justices who are registered Democrats making up the majority – the state’s highest court directed the GOP-controlled legislature to redraw the plans by Feb. 18 and explain how they calculated the partisan fairness of the new boundaries. Any replacement maps would still be used for the May 17 primaries.
“A healthy democracy requires free elections and the NC Supreme Court is right to order a redraw of unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts,” said Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. “More work remains and any legislative redraw must reflect the full intent of this decision.”
The court’s decision reversed a ruling last month from a panel of three trial judges. It declared partisan gerrymandering found in the redistricting approved by the legislature in November violated several provisions in the North Carolina Constitution. They include the right to free elections, freedom of speech and equal protection of citizens.
“Today’s ruling by the North Carolina Supreme Court is a win for voters and for democracy,” said NC Democratic Party Chair Bobbie Richardson. “This is a critical and momentous step towards maps that protect the fundamental right to vote. After Republicans lied about their commitment to fairness and cheated using secret concept maps, today’s decision should reassure voters that stealing political power will not be tolerated. As Democrats, we remain committed to ensuring North Carolinians can make their voice heard.”
State Republicans voiced their frustration in a news release pointing out that the tie-breaking vote, in essence, was by Justice Anita Earls, who refused to recuse herself even though the case was funded by Holder, her campaign megadonor and was argued by her former law partner.
Democratic U.S. Reps. G. K. Butterfield, Deborah Ross, David Price, Kathy Manning and Alma Adams issued a joint statement applauding the court’s decision.
“We appreciate the Supreme Court majority recognizing the unfairness of the enacted map and concluding that the intentional extreme partisan gerrymandering of congressional boundaries is not permitted by the North Carolina constitution. This was not a complex case for the North Carolina Supreme Court. The trial court previously found that the maps were intentionally gerrymandered to advantage Republicans.
The congress members added in part, “It is our hope that the North Carolina General Assembly will immediately remedy their violation of the state constitution and enact a new map that will reflect the political diversity of our state and comply with the North Carolina constitution. Should the General Assembly fail to enact a fair map, we look forward to the Courts enacting a congressional map that will allow the elections to proceed.”