By Dr. Michael Bitzer | With the pending decision by the US Supreme Court regarding North Carolina’s redistricting & partisan gerrymandering case, the Old North State once again could enter the annuals of history when it comes to redistricting efforts: first, the state dominated the jurisprudence regarding race, redistricting, and racial gerrymandering; now, the state, along with a case out of Maryland, could be one of the lead decisions regarding politics, redistricting, and partisan gerrymandering.
In order to get the full impact of the Supreme Court’s decision, it is best to get a sense of how this issue came to dominate the political landscape and how we got to awaiting the final opinion.
Following the 2011’s redistricting efforts, led by supermajorities of Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly and not subject to a governor’s review or veto (see NC Constitution, Article II, Section 22, Subsection 5), the initial congressional maps were challenged as racial gerrymandering. That legal challenge ended with the US Supreme Court upholding the lower court’s judgment that the congressional district maps were unconstitutional, based on racial gerrymandering (Cooper v. Harris, 2017).
Following the rejection of the congressional maps, Republicans, still with super-majorities in the legislature, went back to redesign the congressional districts and, understanding the role that politics play and that the US Supreme Court has generally been hesitant to enter the “political thicket” of partisan gerrymandering, redrew the maps. A fateful comment was made by Republican representative David Lewis, who chaired the redistricting efforts for the legislature:
“I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats, because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”