By AFRO Staff
The North Carolina Supreme Court on Feb. 4 shot down Republican gerrymandering of legislative maps – the party’s attempt to engineer its political dominance in the state – calling it “unconstitutional.”
“We conclude that…congressional and state legislative districting plans enacted by the General Assembly are unlawful partisan gerrymanders that violate the free elections clause, the equal protection clause, and the freedom of assembly clause,” the court wrote in its ruling as quoted by CBS News.
The 4-3 partisan ruling requires the GOP-led legislature to redraw its congressional and state legislative maps and resubmit to the court by Feb. 18. As originally enacted, the congressional map would have netted Republicans 10 favorable seats (a net gain of two), and created three Democrat-leaning seats and one competitive seat.
According to the New York Times, the justices are also requiring lawmakers to offer a range of statistical analyses to show “a significant likelihood that the districting plan will give the voters of all political parties substantially equal opportunity to translate votes into seats” in elections.
“When a redistricting plan systematically makes it harder for one group of voters to elect a governing majority than another group of voters of equal size– the General Assembly unconstitutionally infringes upon that voter’s fundamental right to vote,” the court wrote.
Plaintiffs, which include the League of Conservation Voters’ North Carolina (NCLCV) chapter and a group of North Carolina voters, expressed a sense of vindication at the court’s ruling. They will also be given an opportunity to submit maps.
“Today the Supreme Court ruled that our state constitution guarantees North Carolinians the right to elect their leaders in free and fair elections, something the General Assembly denied them when they drew their unconstitutional gerrymandered maps. This is the justice we sought when we filed this lawsuit,” said NCLCV executive director Carrie Clark as quoted by CBS News.
Both GOP lawmakers and justices argued the court was overstepping its reach, taking the responsibility for redistricting into the judicial branch.
“By choosing to hold that partisan gerrymandering violates the North Carolina Constitution and by devising its own remedies, there appears to be no limit to this court’s power,” wrote Chief Justice Paul Martin Newby in his dissent.
This is the last of three GOP attempts over the past decade to draw North Carolina’s district maps in their favor. The congressional maps had to be redrawn in 2016 and 2019, after courts found partisan gerrymandering “beyond a reasonable doubt.“
North Carolina’s is also the third GOP-controlled legislature in recent times that was forced by federal and state courts to go back to the drawing board. Last month, Ohio’s state supreme court rejected maps drawn by Republicans due to unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, while a federal court found that maps drawn by Republicans in Alabama abrogated the rights of Black voters.
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