Supreme Court Surprises Legal Experts, Allows New Electoral Map in NC

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The Supreme Court surprised legal experts on Monday by allowing North Carolina lawmakers to forge ahead with a new court-mandated electoral map. Democrats have argued for years that many Republican-controlled states need new electoral maps, as their existing district lines are nonsensical gerrymanders. 

The Supreme Court has dealt a surprising blow to the GOP by overturning the North Carolina Republicans’ challenge to the electoral map. Polling in the state suggests that there are more Democratically-leaning voters in the state than election returns would have you believe. It could be much more difficult for right-leaning politicians to win elections with these new district lines in place.

Why Did the Supreme Court Rule This Way?

The Supreme Court has a conservative supermajority thanks to a recent string of Republican-appointed justices. Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch voted to stop the new district map from becoming law.

It’s unclear how the other justices ruled, as they were not required to disclose their stance in the emergency decision. Either Amy Coney Barrett or Chief Justice John Roberts must have sided with the court’s three liberal justices to allow the new map to take effect. 

In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that federal courts have no authority to rule in cases of partisan gerrymandering. Instead, the US high court argued, state courts have the final say in cases regarding voter districts. 

Justice Brett Kavanaugh argued that the new case advances interesting arguments regarding voting rights. He wrote that he feels it is too close to the primaries for courts to suddenly change the map, but that the Supreme Court should seriously consider the merits of the new districts. 

Setting Precedent?

Republican lawmakers argued that state courts drawing new districting lines with little oversight is an overstep of their constitutional powers. The Constitution gives the power to decide the “time, manner, and place of elections” to state legislatures, but the courts argue that voter district lines don’t fall under these prescriptions. 

Meanwhile, Democrats and voting rights activists say that state legislatures have been drawing unfair voting maps for decades without any meaningful oversight. “Today’s move by the court reinforces that legislatures do not have a free pass to violate protections against partisan gerrymandering when drawing districts that undeniably hurt voters,” stated Hilary Harris Klein, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s senior counsel for voting rights. 

“North Carolinians can now expect to vote in elections under fair congressional maps free of backdoor dealings, extreme partisanship, and racial discrimination.”