Feb 4, 2022 - Politics & Policy

North Carolina Supreme Court: GOP's redistricting plans unconstitutional

Photo of a sign that says "Legislative Building" and includes an image of the state of North Carolina

The North Carolina state legislature building in Raleigh on May 9, 2016. Photo: Al Drago via CQ Roll Call

The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled 4-3 Friday that the state's GOP-led redistricting maps are unconstitutional and "unlawful partisan gerrymanders."

Why it matters: After North Carolina gained a 14th congressional seat post-2020 census, Republicans drew up a plan that would have left Republicans with as many as 11 seats compared to just three for Democrats.

  • Voting rights advocates immediately filed lawsuits after the General Assembly finalized the maps in November.
  • Friday's ruling overturns a lower court ruling from January, which said the maps were constitutional.

What they're saying: The "General Assembly diminished and diluted the voting power of voters affiliated with one party on the basis of party affiliation," stated the order, which struck down maps for both the General Assembly and North Carolina's 14 House seats.

  • "Such a plan is subject to strict scrutiny and is unconstitutional unless the General Assembly can demonstrate that the plan is 'narrowly tailored to advance a compelling governmental interest,'" the ruling reads.
  • "Achieving a partisan advantage incommensurate with a political party's level of statewide voter support is neither a compelling nor a legitimate governmental interest."
  • The plans are "are unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt under the free elections clause, the equal protection clause, the free speech clause and the freedom of assembly clause of North Carolina’s constitution," the court ruled.

The other side: The three Republican justices dissented, arguing that the court's majority tossed judicial restraint aside in favor of "seizing the opportunity to advance its agenda."

The big picture, via Axios Charlotte's Michael Graff: This is the latest round between the GOP-led legislature and courts.

What's next: State legislators must submit new plans that "satisfy all provisions of the North Carolina Constitution" to the trial court for review by Feb. 18 at 5pm.

  • The trial court is expected to approve or adopt "compliant congressional and state legislative districting plans" by Feb. 23 at noon.
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