The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday ruled to strike down redistricting maps Republicans passed last November.
In a 4-3 decision, all four Democrats on the state’s highest court voted to strike down the proposed maps. The court ordered Republicans to submit new voting maps by 5:00 p.m. on February 18. The maps must be shown to the three-judge panel that initially approved the first maps. The lower court must then approve the proposed maps by noon February 23.
All other parties involved in the lawsuit will also be allowed to submit their own proposed maps for the trial court’s review.
According to the court, the maps 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 maps the court struck down Friday evening would have given the GOP a 10-14 advantage on North Carolina’s House seats for the next decade. The court’s three Republican justices dissented and would have allowed the maps to stand.
Republican Chief Justice Paul Newby believed the court lacked the power to override the legislature’s proposed maps, making it an issue of separation of powers. Newby wrote that the court’s decision “violates separation of powers by effectively placing responsibility for redistricting with the judicial branch, not the legislative branch as expressly provided in our constitution.”
“Unless and until the people alter the law to either limit or prohibit the practice of partisan gerrymandering, this Court is without any satisfactory or manageable legal standard and thus must refuse to resolve such a claim,” Newby wrote in his dissent.
Unsurprisingly, North Carolina Democrats applauded the state supreme court’s decision. Governor Roy Cooper (D-NC) said the court “ is right to order a redraw of unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts.” “More work remains and any legislative redraw must reflect the full intent of this decision,” Cooper added.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said the court’s ruling is “fantastic news for voters and the health of our democracy.”
BREAKING: Fantastic news for voters and the health of our democracy — the NC Supreme Court just struck down the legislative and congressional maps as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The maps violate a voter's fundamental right to vote.
— Josh Stein (@JoshStein_) February 4, 2022
On the other hand, Republicans spoke out against the court’s ruling. Rep. Dan Bishop (D-NC) was not surprised at the ideologically divided court’s decision.
“What a shock. 4-3 decision. Only Democrat judges struck down maps drawn by a Republican legislature,” Bishop tweeted. “For 140 years of unbroken Democrat rule, they failed to see a problem. Elections for the Supreme Court majority are around the corner.”
What a shock. 4-3 decision. Only Democrat judges struck down maps drawn by a Republican legislature. For 140 years of unbroken Democrat rule, they failed to see a problem. #ncpol
Elections for the Supreme Court majority are around the corner. https://t.co/OxcJpU64Fh
— Dan Bishop (@jdanbishop) February 4, 2022
Phil Strach, an attorney representing Republican lawmakers, argued that the court’s decision harmed its credibility. “The damage to this court has already begun,” Strach told the justices. “The mere possibility that this court might strike down the redistricting plans has already led some in the public to start treating the court like a legislature, not a court.”
North Carolina’s maps should be finalized soon, as the state holds its 2022 primary elections on May 17.