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North Carolina Partisan Gerrymandering Cases

By Rob Tyson

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel in two consolidated cases, issued a memorandum opinion denying the Defendants’ motion to dismiss.  In both cases, Common Cause v. Robert Rucho, and League of Women Voters v. Robert Rucho, Plaintiffs alleged North Carolina’s 2016 Congressional Redistricting Plan was unconstitutional because the districts were premised on partisan gerrymandering.  Partisan gerrymandering, the drawing of legislative districts based on political parties, previously has been deemed justiciable by the Supreme Court; however, the highest court has not identified a standard for assessing a partisan gerrymandering claim.

In accordance with a prior judicial order, North Carolina established a Joint Select Committee on Redistricting to draw a new congressional district plan.  This Committee developed criteria to use in its crafting of the plan.  Specifically, the Committee stated, “the [c]ommittee should make reasonable efforts to construct districts that maintain the current partisan makeup of North Carolina’s congressional delegation.”  To achieve the desired result created in the criteria, the Committee used certain election data to “support” the Congressional plan.  The Plaintiffs allege the use of this data to draw districts based on partisanship is unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

In the opinion, the Court held that the Plaintiffs had pled enough to survive a motion to dismiss.  The opinion however recognized the plaintiffs have obstacles to overcome to prevail.   This case comes on the heels of other challenges across the Country to the drawing of legislative districts based on partisan politics.   We’ll continue to follow closely this litigation.

The opinion, 2017 WL 8766307 (2017), is attached here.