North Carolina’s Republican-drawn congressional and legislative maps violate the state’s constitution and must be redrawn before the May 2022 primaries, the state’s Supreme Court said Friday.
The maps were previously upheld by a state appellate court, overruling voters and advocacy groups who challenged the maps as partisan gerrymanders that undermine Black voting power. The maps would strengthen the GOP’s advantage both in the state legislature and congressional delegation.
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But the 4-3 order from the state Supreme Court said the state constitution prohibits the General Assembly from diminishing or diluting any individual’s vote on the basis of partisan affiliation.
“When, on the basis of partisanship, the General Assembly enacts a districting plan that diminishes or dilutes a voter’s opportunity to aggregate with likeminded voters to elect a governing majority—that is, when a districting plan systematically makes it harder for one group of voters to elect a governing majority than another group of equal size—the General Assembly unconstitutionally infringes upon that voter’s fundamental right to vote,” Justice Robin Hudson wrote in the order.
The maps are “unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt” under the Free Elections Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, the Free Speech Clause, and the Freedom of Assembly Clause of the North Carolina constitution, Hudson said in blocking the use of the maps, starting with the upcoming candidate filing period in late February.
Hudson gave the General Assembly until Feb. 18, 2022 at 5 p.m. to draft and submit new maps to the trial court.
Chief Justice Paul Newby dissented, accusing the majority of “seizing an opportunity to advance its agenda,” and calling the ruling an “unprecedented expansion of judicial power.”
The decision violates the separation of powers by effectively placing responsibility for redistricting with the judicial branch, Newby wrote. “A claim for partisan gerrymandering presents a nonjusticiable political question.”
Justices Philip Berger Jr. and Tamara Barringer joined the dissent.
The case is Harper v. Hall, N.C., No. 413PA21, 2/4/22.