NC Supreme Court voids new maps

The N.C. Supreme Court building in Raleigh (File)

RALEIGH — The N.C. Supreme Court struck down the maps produced from the General Assembly’s 2021 redistricting session in a Friday evening decision handed down just two days after oral arguments.

The court split along partisan lines in its ruling, with the four Democrats on the court striking the maps, and the three Republicans saying the maps were constitutional.

In part of the majority opinion, the court orders new maps to be produced by the legislature by Feb. 18, to comply with the re-start of candidate filing on Feb. 24.

The court says to remedy what it says is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, the General Assembly must use “traditional neutral districting criteria” and not subordinate drawing to partisan criteria. The General Assembly previously did not use racial data during the redistricting session.

Reaction to the decision first came from the state Democratic Party, which called the decision “a win for voters and democracy.”

“This is a critical and momentous step towards maps that protect the fundamental right to vote. After Republicans lied about their commitment to fairness and cheated using secret concept maps, today’s decision should reassure voters that stealing political power will not be tolerated,” read a statement.

Gov. Roy Cooper also commented, saying, “A healthy democracy requires free elections and the N.C. Supreme 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.”

Republican state Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), of the redistricting co-chairs in the Senate, criticized the decision.

“Democratic judges, lawyers, and activists have worked in concert to transform the Supreme Court into a policymaking body to impose their political ideas. On this and other cases soon to come before them, the justices ‘interpret the Constitution to mean what it would have said if they, instead of the Founding Fathers, had written it,’ in the words of former justice Sam Ervin, Jr. This perverse precedent, once set, will be nearly impossible to unwind, as monied interests line up to buy their own justices to set law favorable to them. I’m certain Democrats will come to regret it.”

State Republican Party chairman Michael Whatley responded to the decision, saying, “We are extremely disappointed that the four Democrats on the Supreme Court have chosen political expediency over reason in order to invalidate the maps drawn by the General Assembly. This blatantly partisan decision flies in the face of centuries of judicial and legislative precedent and directly contradicts any plain reading of the North Carolina Constitution.”

Republican Chief Justice Paul Newby issued a warning in his dissent that with today’s majority ruling, there may be no limit to the Supreme Court’s power.

“As predicted by the Supreme Court of the United States, this court’s decision results in ‘an unprecedented expansion of judicial power.'”

“By choosing to hold that partisan gerrymandering violates the North Carolina Constitution and by devising its own remedies, there appears to be no limits to this Court’s power.”

Later in the opinion, Newby added that the majority ruled that the North Carolina Constitution now has a statewide proportionality requirement for redistricting.

“In doing so, it magically transforms the protection of individual rights into the creation of a protected class for members of a political party, subjecting a redistricting plan to strict scrutiny review,” writes Newby.

This is a developing story and will be updated.