WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Supreme Court of the United States is scheduled to release rulings on multiple cases Wednesday, and one of them emanates from the Old North State. In Rucho v. Common Cause the Supreme Court Justices will weigh in on charges of ‘partisan gerrymandering’ as it concerns congressional districts in North Carolina.
While several decisions have already been released, we are still waiting on the Rucho v. Common Cause ruling. Depending on which way it goes, the decision could have far reaching implications for not just North Carolina, but every state regarding their legislative map drawing.
From the News & Observer:
“Rucho v. Common Cause is one of two Supreme Court cases that could change the standard for partisan gerrymandering — the other being Lamone v. Benisek, which contests redistricting of Maryland’s 6th congressional district by Democrats in order to oust a Republican and elect a Democrat.
The North Carolina case originated last year when a three-judge panel struck down the congressional map from 2016. When the General Assembly met to pass that congressional map, Republican Rep. David Lewis, co-chair of the elections committee responsible for the alleged gerrymander, said he believed “electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats.”
“I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats,” Lewis said at the time.
Out of 13 House seats up for election in 2018, Republicans claimed 10, even though Republican candidates received just 50.3 percent of the vote. (One GOP victory, in the 9th district, was invalidated after allegations of election fraud; a new election is underway.)
Since the ruling came without much time left before the 2018 midterms, the challengers agreed that changes could not be made before the election. However, before maps could be changed for the 2020 election cycle, legislators appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments for the case in March. The court could tackle whether partisan gerrymandering violated the court’s “one person, one vote” standard and what defines an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.”
The high court has never fully weighed in on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering, and since it is arguably employed by every state legislature engaged in drawing congressional and state legislative districts, it could have quite a large effect if they ruled it unconstitutional.
One immediate effect, if the court sided with Common Cause against the Republican-drawn congressional maps, would be the need to redraw the maps. The questions would be, ‘By when?’
Two special congressional elections are currently ongoing in North Carolina, and regular congressional elections are less than a year and a half away. The highest disruption would come if the ruling mandated new maps be created and approved in time for 2020 elections, so any requirement to redraw maps may be pushed off until 2022.
And that all assumes the court’s majority comes out against the Republican legislature’s ability to draw maps incorporating partisan advantage. When it comes to district mapping decisions about where the lines fall, it has been largely understood for decades that ‘to the victor go the spoils’ and drawing electoral maps is one of those spoils.
You can follow the SCOTUS Live Blog to see when the Rucho ruling emerges, and we’ll be sure to bring you the news when it is out.