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In Depth with Dan: Will US Supreme Court's decision on Alabama force NC to redraw its voting maps?

Several states might have to redraw their congressional district maps before the 2024 elections. Could North Carolina be one of them?
Posted 2023-06-12T22:37:27+00:00 - Updated 2023-06-12T23:26:35+00:00

An important U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week got overshadowed by several 2024 presidential contenders visiting North Carolina.

While President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump and top Republican candidates Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence stumped in our state, the Supreme Court was delivering a ruling that may eventually impact who you can vote for.

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 and ordered Alabama — a state where there are seven congressional seats — to redraw its congressional districts. Many minority lawmakers and voting rights activists viewed the ruling as a stunning victory with the potential to become a major stepping stone for undoing political maps that dilute the strength of communities of color.

Kareem Crayton, senior director for voting and representation at the Brennan Center for Justice, called the court's decision “a welcome surprise” and said challenges to the maps in Louisiana and Georgia were the most similar to the Alabama case.

Maps in those three states could have to be redrawn for the 2024 elections.

There are several lawsuits already filed about the issue in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas.

Will the repercussions also impact North Carolina? Earlier this year, the Republican majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court said that partisan gerrymandering — that is, drawing Congressional districts to favor one party or another — is legal in the state. Just a year before, the North Carolina Supreme Court had ruled it illegal, but since then, North Carolina voters flipped the high court’s majority from Democratic to Republican.

“Our constitution expressly assigns the redistricting authority to the General Assembly subject to explicit limitations in the text,” Chief Justice Paul Newby wrote in an opinion joined by the court’s other Republican justices. “Those [constitutional] 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. Furthermore, were this court to create such a limitation, there is no judicially discoverable or manageable standard for adjudicating such claims. The constitution does not require or permit a standard known only to four justices.”

The North Carolina Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court don’t think it’s their place to weigh in on partisan gerrymandering.

So why did the U.S. Supreme Court intervene in Alabama? It’s because that case dealt with racial gerrymandering, which is in the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law professor Theodore Shaw explained the difference between partisan gerrymandering and racial gerrymandering.

“Even though, as [you] well know, there’s a strong overlap between race and partisanship, there’s different standards that apply in federal court,” Shaw said.

Shaw said he thinks the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision about Alabama could impact North Carolina.

“I think that it could have implications. Keep in mind, there’s partisan gerrymandering, which the Supreme Court of the United States said is not justiciable,” Shaw said. “In other words, the courts won’t decide those kinds of cases.

“On the other hand, if it’s racial gerrymandering, the courts have to hear [the case].”

In Depth With Dan

Dan Haggerty is a reporter and anchor for WRAL. He’s won four regional Emmy awards for his anchoring and reporting in Fort Myers, Florida; Cleveland; San Diego; Dallas; Portland, Oregon and Raleigh, North Carolina. He is proud to call the Triangle home.

Anyone who has an idea for In Depth with Dan can email him at dan@wral.com.