North Carolina Supreme Court reverses two major prior rulings, will allow partisan redistricting maps and voter ID law

April 29, 2023
Ben Marquis

In early 2022, the then-Democrat-controlled North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that congressional redistricting maps drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislature were "unlawful partisan gerrymanders" that violated the state constitution, and further ordered the maps to be redrawn to equally divide the state between the two major parties.

The North Carolina Supreme Court, now controlled by Republicans, recently reheard the matter and has now reversed that prior decision and will now allow "partisan gerrymanders" of congressional district maps drawn by the state legislature, according to TheBlaze.

That is because the state constitution explicitly and solely grants redistricting authority to the state legislature, and conversely does not grant state courts the authority to intervene and overrule lawmakers, who represent the will of the people, on such specifically enumerated matters.

The court previously ruled against GOP-favorable redistricting maps

Axios reported in February 2022 that the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to strike down as unconstitutional the redistricting maps drawn up by the Republican-controlled state legislature that would have resulted in the state's 14 congressional districts being drawn in a way that likely would have resulted in an 11-3 split in favor of the GOP.

The high court ordered the legislature to redraw the maps, albeit with its own "special masters" and outside advisers overseeing the redo, which resulted in a new map that resulted in the state's 14 districts being evenly split between Democrats and Republicans following the 2022 midterm elections.

Those elections also resulted in Republicans gaining majority control of the state's Supreme Court, however, and the matter was appealed back to the high court for a rehearing.

Prior ruling against redistricting maps overturned

Now, in a 218-page ruling, the North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled 5-2 that the prior decision was incorrect in that the state courts lacked any constitutional authority to override the explicitly authorized constitutional powers of the legislature to redraw district maps.

Chief Justice Paul Newby wrote, "Our constitution expressly assigns the redistricting authority to the General Assembly subject to explicit limitations in the text. Those limitations do not address partisan gerrymandering.

"It is not within the authority of this Court to amend the constitution to create such limitations on a responsibility that is textually assigned to another branch," he added. "Furthermore, were this Court to create such a limitation, there is no judicially discoverable or manageable standard for adjudicating such claims."

As a result of that decision, the Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature are now free to redraw the state's redistricting maps as they best see fit, and should the legislature return to its initial 11-3 map that had been rejected, that could mean an additional four GOP seats in Congress following the 2024 elections.

Prior ruling against Voter ID law overturned

Meanwhile, TheBlaze further reported that the North Carolina Supreme Court also released a separate 91-page ruling on the same day that overturned on rehearing the court's prior 2022 decision to uphold a lower court's 2018 order that rejected a voter-approved Voter ID law as being racially discriminatory.

Ultimately, it was determined by the current court that the prior court had ruled in error against the Voter ID law as the plaintiffs who challenged that law had failed to provide sufficient evidence to support the assertion that the law was deliberately crafted to be racially discriminatory.

It is not overstating the case to say that these two rulings from the North Carolina Supreme Court are absolute game-changers in terms of the impact they will have on future elections.

Indeed, by the time voters in the state begin to cast ballots as part of the 2024 elections, they will be required to show some form of valid ID, with some exceptions and provisions allowed, and will be doing so in redrawn districts that will likely favor the GOP more than Democrats, which will almost certainly solidify North Carolina as a "red" state for the foreseeable future.

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