The U.S. Supreme Court Injects More Chaos Into N.C.’s Ongoing Redistricting Saga | News

The U.S. Supreme Court Injects More Chaos Into N.C.’s Ongoing Redistricting Saga

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This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.

Last night, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a partial stay of the new North Carolina legislative districts drawn by special master Nathaniel Persily at the best of a federal court, which ruled that the districts legislators drew last year didn’t entirely fix the racial-gerrymandering problem that had led the court to strike down those legislative districts in 2016. The ruling, which didn’t come with much of an explanation—though Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg would have denied the General Assembly’s request for a stay in full, and Justices Thomas and Alito would have granted the stay in full—will keep Persily’s districts intact everywhere except in Wake and Mecklenburg counties. The timing is somewhat suboptimal: filing for legislative elections begins next week, which doesn’t give people all that much time to figure stuff out.
  • From the N&O: “The district lines drawn by Nathaniel Persily of Stanford University altered nine legislative districts adopted by lawmakers in 2017 to comply with a 2016 court ruling. In 2016, federal judges ruled that 28 of the state’s districts used for electing General Assembly members were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. After the General Assembly adopted new maps in August 2017, challengers argued that some of the districts still were gerrymandered to weaken the overall influence of black voters. They also argued that some of the districts in urban counties were altered mid-decade when they did not have to be, a violation of the state Constitution. Republicans argued that questions about altering districts mid-decade belonged in state court, not federal court.”
  • “Currently Republicans dominate the N.C. General Assembly with numbers that allow them to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s vetoes. They hold 35 of the 50 Senate seats and 75 of the 120 House seats. A previous draft of Persily’s plan appeared to make it easier for Democrats to defeat Republican incumbents in four House races and two Senate races, but it’s unclear how the temporary stay for his lines in Wake and Mecklenburg counties will affect those numbers. Persily redrew just a fraction of the state’s 170 legislative districts, mostly in urban counties that tend to favor Democrats.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Without seeing what the final maps will look like, it’s hard to tell how they will affect the election. But the main thrust of it is that most of the districts we’ll be voting on in November will have been drawn by Republicans to favor Republicans, and that’s going to make it more difficult for Democrats to overcome the GOP’s supermajorities, much less take back the General Assembly.

WHAT'S NEXT: This stay comes on the heels of a Supreme Court decision last month to stay a court-ordered redraw of North Carolina’s congressional districts, which a federal court has found to be unconstitutional because they are blatant partisan gerrymanders. Then, on Tuesday, the court declined to actually hear that case in time for its ruling to go into effect for November’s elections, which would seem a blow to Democrats. However, the liberal website ThinkProgress argues that, in dissenting, Sotomayor and Ginsburg indicated that the court was about to reject partisan gerrymandering in another case.
  • Here’s the explanation: “Last October, the Court heard oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a challenge to Wisconsin’s gerrymandered state assembly maps. At that argument, a majority of the Court appeared ready to declare—for the first time—that a partisan gerrymander violates the Constitution. Four months later, it is likely that drafts of the majority opinion and the dissent in Whitford have already circulated among the justices. Absent a last-minute change of heart by a justice in the majority, Ginsburg and Sotomayor know how this case will turn out. If Ginsburg and Sotomayor know that the Court is about to uphold the Wisconsin gerrymander, it is very unlikely they would want to place another partisan gerrymandering case on the Court’s docket.”
  • “But if Ginsburg and Sotomayor know that the Wisconsin gerrymander is going down—and that the Court is about to usher in a legal revolution that will sweep away many unconstitutional gerrymanders—then they most likely will want that revolution to move swiftly. The most likely reason why they would want the North Carolina case to be heard on an expedited basis is because they know that they won Whitford, and they want to win Rucho fast enough for it to matter in 2018.”

Related: A national Democratic group headed by Eric Holder and backed by Barack Obama will pour millions of dollars into GOP-controlled states in an effort to block Republicans from single-handedly redrawing legislative and congressional districts after the 2020 census. [NYT]

Related: Persily will now draw congressional districts in Pennsylvania (provided there’s not a constitutional crisis). [INDY]

Related: NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse has filed a complaint against Indivisible: Flip NC, a grassroots group targeting Republicans in suburban districts, for not filing the appropriate reports with the state. [N&O]

Related: The North Carolina General Assembly is meeting this week but won’t say what it will be voting on, which almost certainly means something gross is coming. [N&O]


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