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Monday, July 15, 2024

N.C.’s Newly Conservative Supreme Court Seeks to Revisit Activist Redistricting Decisions

'Some things, your honor, are beyond the power of this court... '

(Headline USA) A newly formed and now Republican-majority North Carolina Supreme Court listened on Tuesday to arguments that could determine the extent to which state legislators can create electoral districts and help move forward from the electoral mess that redistricting activists had created.

The new 5-2 GOP majority allowed a “rehearing” of the case last month. The redistricting litigation was ruled on just three months ago, when Democrats held a 4-3 seat advantage. That edition of the court threw out out a state Senate map the legislature drew and upheld congressional boundaries drawn by trial judges and supported by Democrats.

That ruling stemmed from a landmark February 2022 decision declaring the state constitution barred partisan gerrymandering — especially when lines fail to give voters the ability to elect favored candidates commensurate with their level of voting power statewide, and particularly when Democrats are out of power.

The Republicans on the court at the time disagreed, saying the constitution doesn’t address partisan considerations in redistricting, so such decisions are left solely to lawmakers. Since then, the court’s majority flipped to the GOP after two associate justice election victories in November. Republican legislative leaders asked for the rehearing, which the new court granted.

The state’s redistricting efforts have long been a target of leftist activists like former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and his goons from the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Republicans noted that the NDRC gave $200,000 contribution to Anita Earls, a Democrat justice on the state Supreme Court.

The arguments marked the first of two days of rehearings for the justices. The same Republican majority also ordered a hearing for Wednesday on another 4-3 decision in December that upheld a trial court decision striking down a 2018 voter photo identification law.

There’s no timeline when the Supreme Court will rule.

A favorable decision for the GOP legislative leaders could give them an easier time to draw legislative and congressional maps for 2024 and beyond with more favorable partisan tilts, a long-running tactic of Democrats from their tenure in control. While Republicans current hold majorities in the General Assembly, the congressional delegation is split 7-7 after two more Democrat seat victories in November.

Harper is also involved in a related case at the U.S. Supreme Court, where oral arguments were held in December. Legislative Republicans asked the U.S. justices to declare that the state Supreme Court improperly tossed out the congressional districts the General Assembly drew. The federal case could become moot if the state Supreme Court reinstates congressional lines the legislature drew.

Phil Strach, a lawyer for the GOP lawmakers, told the court on Tuesday that the 2022 decisions show that state courts lack the ability to calculate and determine what are considered politically fair maps.

“Some things, your honor, are beyond the power of this court,” Strach told Associate Justice

Attorneys for the voters and advocacy groups that initially sued over the maps said in legal briefs that the facts in the cases haven’t changed — only the combination of justices have— and so the redistricting decisions should be left intact.

The Supreme Court didn’t give specifics for why they agreed to rehearings. But they can be granted based on arguments that the justices “overlooked or misapprehended” facts or laws.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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