Supreme Court Decision To Hear NC Gerrymandering Case Could Come Soon
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on two closely watched gerrymandering cases this week but sidestepped the main issue — whether it's illegal to draw districts to give an unfair advantage to one party. Experts say the issues could be more clear cut in a North Carolina case pending before the court. Justices could announce as early as next week if they plan to hear the case this fall.
The case — actually two cases consolidated into one — seeks to overturn new House maps drawn in 2016 by the Republican-controlled state legislature.
Bob Phillips is the executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, which filed one of the suits.
"Our hope is that they will say they will agree to hear the case this fall," Phillips said. "I guess the case could be remanded back to a lower court as well. But our expectation is that potentially as early as next Monday we may hear that the High Court has agreed to hear the case in its next term October 2018."
Lawmakers redrew the districts in 2016, giving Republicans a 10 to 3 advantage in House seats — even though Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state. Common Cause and The League of Women Voters, which filed the other case, argued that the new districts took away the voices of non-Republicans.
Monday's orders sent the two other cases, from Wisconsin and Maryland, back to lower courts, without commenting on the constitutional issue of partisan gerrymandering. In the Wisconsin case, the court said Democrats who challenged state legislative districts didn't show they were harmed, and so didn't have the standing to sue.
In the Maryland case, Republicans were objecting to one congressional district they didn't like, which was drawn by Democrats in 2011. They went to the Supreme Court even before the trial began, challenging the lower court's refusal to issue a preliminary injunction. Monday's ruling means the case will now go forward.
Lawyer Allison Riggs represents the N.C. League of Women Voters. She thinks it's likely the Supreme Court will take the case.
"In many respects, the procedural problems present in both the Wisconsin and Maryland cases aren't present in the North Carolina case," Riggs said.
The justices could discuss the case during their weekly scheduling conference Thursday, and make an announcement next Monday.