North Carolina Supreme Court Strikes Down Redistricting Plans

The North Carolina Supreme Court reversed a previous decision from last year striking down legislative districts for the state legislature and Congressional seats, as Axios recently reported. 

The districts were drawn by Republican-led state legislature based on the results of the 2020 United States Census, but the Supreme Court, which had a Democratic majority at the time, blocked the maps as partisan gerrymandering. Since that ruling, however, Republicans have flipped two seats on the court, which decided to rehear the case in February.

The court reversed to other decisions, according to The Hill, reinstating requirements for voter ID and prohibiting felons from voting before they completed their probation. The previous Democratic majority had decided both measures were racially discriminatory.  

Republican justices, however, described the court’s decision as violating the separation of powers, with the court intruding on political questions. 

“Our constitution expressly assigns the redistricting authority to the General Assembly subject to explicit limitations in the text,” wrote Chief Justice Paul Newby. “Those limitations do not address partisan gerrymandering. It is not within the authority of this Court to amend the constitution to create such limitations on a responsibility that is textually assigned to another branch.”

“Judges exceed constitutional boundaries when they act as a super-legislature,” wrote Justice Phil Berger on the voter ID decision.  

The remaining Democrats on the court strongly criticized the decisions. 

“Following decisions such as this, we must remember that, though the path forward might seem long and unyielding, an injustice that is so glaring, so lawless and such a betrayal to the democratic values upon which our constitution is based will not stand forever,” wrote Justice Anita Earls in her dissent. 

Reversing the redistricting case could have national implications, according to NPR. The case, originally known as Harper v. Hall, had already made its way to the United States Supreme Court, which has heard it but not issued a decision. At the federal level it’s called Moore v. Harper and the Supreme Court could either throw it out, or issue a ruling of its own, which could overturn or uphold all or part of the North Carolina decision.

Some critics of the redistricting decision were actually relieved by it for increasing the likelihood that the Supreme Court would dismiss it. “This will likely prevent (or at least delay) the possible limiting of state court review of voter suppression laws elsewhere,” said Marc Elias, whose law firm represents the plaintiffs. 


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