Last month, the North Carolina Supreme Court dealt a fatal blow to Republican leaders’ attempt at a partisan gerrymander of the state’s election maps. By a 4-3 vote, the state supreme court ruled that the maps drawn by Republican leaders were an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and ordered them to revise and resubmit. Specifically, they found that the maps (for both the state legislature and Congress) were “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.”
New polling from Carolina Forward reveals that voters resoundingly support the state supreme court’s action. In a poll taken after the revised maps had been passed, voters expressed strong support for the state supreme court’s action in striking down the gerrymander:
Not a single respondent category expressed majority disapproval of the court's action, with even 1 in 4 Republican voters affirmatively in support. Among voters overall, just bit fewer than 1 in 3 voters disapproved of the court's action, while half supported it.
Sorry - Redistricting Isn't Quite Finished
There were two sets of maps in question during the recent redistricting process: those for the state legislature, and those for the U.S. House of Representatives, where North Carolina now has 14 seats.
Under the state constitution, the new legislative maps are now set in stone for the next decade. These final maps, while a major improvement from Republican leaders' first attempt last fall, are still tilted against Democrats. (See Carolina Forward's full analysis of the final legislative maps.)
The Congressional maps, however, are a different story. Because they were drawn by the courts, and not the legislature, state law gives legislative leaders the opportunity to re-draw them before the 2024 election cycle. Republican leaders, livid that their first attempt was foiled by the courts, are all but certain to try again next year. Because partisan control of the state supreme court could change following the 2022 election (where 2 seats on the state's highest court are up for re-election), it's possible that a Republican-majority state supreme court would overrule this court ruling, and permit another egregious partisan gerrymander.
In other words, the 2022 Republican State Supreme Court candidates will be running on a promise to legalize partisan gerrymandering once again. We have been warned.