CASE SUMMARY

On November 16, 2021, the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, Inc., and a group of North Carolina voters, scientists, and mathematicians filed a lawsuit in North Carolina state court challenging the General Assembly's enacted congressional and legislative plans as violating various provisions of the North Carolina Constitution. First, the plaintiffs allege that both the congressional and legislative plans are partisan gerrymanders drawn to advantage the Republican Party and disadvantage the Democratic Party in violation of the North Carolina Constitution's Free Elections Clause (Art. I, Section 5), Equal Protection Clause (Art. I, Section 19), Freedom of Speech Clause (Art. I, Section 12), and Freedom of Assembly Clause (Art. I, Section 14). Next, they allege the congressional and legislative plans result in the dilution of African-American voting strength by "cracking" and "packing" African-American voters into certain districts in violation of the North Carolina Constitution's Free Elections Clause and Equal Protection Clause. Finally, plaintiffs assert that the state House and state Senate redistricting plans violate the North Carolina Constitution's Whole County Provisions (Art. II, Sections 3(3) and 5(3)) because they failed to adhere to the North Carolina Supreme Court's mandated algorithm for complying with those provisions by unnecessarily crossing county boundaries and forming less compact districts to create partisan gerrymandered districts. The plaintiffs are seeking a judicial declaration that the enacted congressional and legislative plans are unconstitutional, an injunction barring the defendants from implementing or using the maps in future elections and pausing the candidate-filing periods for congressional and legislative candidates, and a court order requiring the General Assembly to enact new, lawful redistricting plans. Additionally, plaintiffs requested that in the event the General Assembly fails to enact sufficiently corrected remedial plans within two weeks of the court's order to do so, then plaintiffs' own submitted "optimized maps" be adopted and used for the 2022 elections.

On December 3, 2021, the superior court panel denied the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction halting the maps from going into effect and pausing the candidate-filing period for congressional and state legislative candidates, which the plaintiffs immediately appealed. On December 6, 2021, a panel of judges on the North Carolina Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay on the opening of the candidate-filing period for the 2022 primary elections for Congress, the N.C. Senate, and the N.C. House of Representatives pending the Court of Appeals' resolution of the plaintiffs' petition for writ of supersedeas or prohibition. On the same day, the court issued an order consolidating this case with another challenge to North Carolina's congressional redistricting plan, Harper v. Hall.

On December 6, 2021, the full N.C. Court of Appeals vacated the panel's temporary stay, denied the plaintiffs' request for a stay, and voted to re-hear the petition for writ of supersedeas or prohibition en banc. On December 8, 2021, the N.C. Supreme Court issued an order granting a preliminary injunction and temporarily staying the candidate-filing period for the 2022 elections until a final judgment on the merits of the plaintiffs' claims, including any appeals, has been ordered. Trial for these consolidated cases concluded on January 6, 2022.

On January 11, 2022, the Superior Court issued its ruling rejecting the plaintiffs' various claims and upholding the plans as valid. The court, citing the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Common Cause v. Rucho that partisan gerrymandering claims are non-justiciable political questions beyond the reach of federal courts, held that partisan gerrymandering claims are also non-justiciable political questions that do not violate the North Carolina Constitution's Free Elections, Equal Protection, Freedom of Speech, or Freedom of Assembly Clauses. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' allegations of racial gerrymandering and vote dilution under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, finding that the plaintiffs failed to establish that race was the predominant consideration in the creation of the challenged districts or that racially polarized voting existed in the challenged districts. Finally, the court held that the plans also did not violate the North Carolina Constitution's Whole County Provision because when counties were divided, it was predominantly for traditional and permissible redistricting considerations, including for partisan advantage. The plaintiffs appealed the Superior Court's judgment to the North Carolina Supreme Court on the same day.

CASE LIBRARY

North Carolina Superior Court, Wake County - No. 21-cv-15426

North Carolina Court of Appeals - No. P21-525

North Carolina Supreme Court - No. 413P21