The U.S. Supreme Court has granted state lawmakers’ request to block a lower court’s order for them to redraw the 2016 congressional maps because of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.
The order was released Thursday evening. It grants the stay pending the timely filing and disposition of an appeal.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor would have denied the stay, according to the order.
The U.S. District Court ruled last week that state lawmakers intended to maximize partisan advantage when drawing the 2016 congressional map and thereby discriminated against non-Republican voters. A three-judge panel gave the legislature until 5 p.m. Jan. 24 to redraw the maps and said they would also hire a special master for time’s sake.
Lawmakers requested a stay from the panel — it was denied — and the Supreme Court.
Attorneys for the League of Women Voters, a plaintiff in the one of the two partisan gerrymandering cases, urged the Supreme Court to move quickly through the appeals process.
“North Carolina voters deserve to have a fair map before the 2018 election, or they risk a fourth consecutive election under an unconstitutional map that does not reflect their preferences,” said Ruth Greenwood, senior legal counsel for voting rights and redistricting at Campaign Legal Center. “A single election under an unconstitutional map is one too many; four are intolerable. For that reason, the Supreme Court must move quickly to hear this case this term.”
Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, agreed and said they are optimistic justices will hear and decide the case before the end of the court’s term in June.
“Voters and even most elected officials agree that partisan gerrymandering is violating the constitutional rights of Americans all over the country,” she said. “While we are disappointed that the stay was granted, North Carolinians deserve to participate in fair elections in 2018.”
Democracy North Carolina Executive Director Tomas Lopez said they too were disappointed about the stay.
“As the lower court warned in its ruling, without new, constitutional maps, North Carolinians will cast votes in congressional elections conducted under unconstitutional maps in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 — virtually the entire decade,” he said. “However, we remain hopeful that the Court will ultimately strike down partisan gerrymanders in the cases currently before it, and set a national precedent that people, not parties, should pick their representatives.”
Bob Phillips, Executive Director of Common Cause NC, another plaintiff in the cases, said they are disappointed the stay was granted but that “this fight is far from over.”
“We will ask the Supreme Court to affirm the lower court ruling or hear this landmark case,” he said. “We are confident that the court will ultimately agree that the legislature’s extreme partisan gerrymander violates the constitutional rights of North Carolina citizens.”
Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), who helped draw the 2016 congressional map, tweeted almost immediately after the court’s order was released.
“SCOTUS reins in District Court Overeach and grants STAY. 2016 Congressional maps remain in place. #,” he wrote.
Similarly, the state GOP party released a statement applauding the Supreme Court for issuing the stay.
“We are grateful that the Supreme Court has halted the partisan political efforts of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, who tried to inject utter chaos in our elections just days before filing begins,” said Chairman Robin Hayes. “Today’s ruling allows our congressional elections to proceed under the fair and legal maps used in the 2016 elections. We hope the Supreme Court will soon review the Fourth Circuit’s similar unprecedented actions in the legislative redistricting case and offer similar relief.”
Hayes is referring to a racial gerrymandering case in which a three-judge panel has not yet ruled whether it will take lawmakers’ redraw of an unconstitutional map or a special master’s. That case is North Carolina v. Covington, and involves legislative districts, not congressional ones.
You can read the Supreme Court’s order granting the partisan gerrymandering stay below.