- by Valerie Jones
Yesterday, a three-judge panel ruled that Republican-drawn voting maps are unconstitutional. The ruling said the gerrymandered congressional districts ensured the GOP’s “domination of the state’s congressional delegation.” This is the first time the courts have struck down a congressional map on the grounds it was “rigged” for a particular political party according to the Washington Post.
Loyola law professor Justin Levitt's All About Redistricting website summarized the plaintiff’s claim in Common Cause v. Rucho that North Carolina’s 2016 congressional map is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander in violation of the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, and Article I sections 2 and 4 of the U.S. Constitution.
The American Law Journal’s programming on gerrymandering included a feature report that examined North Carolina’s map from the perspective of a voter chatting with Zach Galafanakis, star of the movie “Hangover.” The full program, "Gerrymandering: Why We're Mad at Washington" was honored with an Emmy award in the NATAS Mid-Atlantic region last September.
Previous cases of gerrymandering have historically addressed racial discrimination or state legislature partisan redistricting. Over time, Republicans and Democrats have gerrymandered voting districts. Non-profit and non-partisan citizen's groups like OneVirginia2021 and others across the country have organized grass-roots campaigns to compel states to stop the practice.
“Tuesday’s ruling was a win for the voice of North Carolina’s citizens,” said Jonathan Mattingly, Chair of Duke University’s Math Department. “It recognized that political gerrymandering can suppress the will of the people and their ability to express political desires at the ballot box."
Mattingly’s research with collaborators produced a quantitative “Gerrymandering Index” to analyze the state redistricting, which identified the partisan gerrymandered maps as “extreme statistical outliers.”
Yesterday’s ruling is significant as part of the groundswell of gerrymandering cases currently on the Supreme Court’s docket. The two cases before the high court are from Wisconsin and Maryland; if appealed, the North Carolina case may be added. According to the Post, Chief Justice John Roberts said during October’s oral arguments in the Wisconsin case, Gill v Whitford, is that adjudicating partisan gerrymandering cases will flood the courts.
Gerrymandering is so widespread and acknowledged as a political tactic, North Carolina Republicans had openly stated that the map in question was drawn to benefit their party.
Federal Court voids North Carolina's GOP-drawn Congressional map for partisan gerrymandering, The Washington Post, January 10, 2018.