A nonpartisan watchdog group called Common Cause, the North Carolina Democratic Party and a group of North Carolina voters have filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s legislative maps on the grounds of partisan gerrymandering.
The lawsuit, Common Cause V. Lewis, marks the first time a partisan gerrymandering case has been filed with the North Carolina State Supreme Court.
Executive Director of Common Cause Bob Phillips says that with the democrats five to two majority in the state court, he likes their chances.
“We are filing this in a way and arguing this in a way where the State Supreme Court would be the final arbiter,” says Phillips. “It would not be something that the U.S. Supreme Court could then take up, so what the State Supreme Court rules would be the ruling.”
The legislature drew the current maps after the federal courts found the former maps unconstitutional on the grounds of racial gerrymandering.
Now, Common Cause is challenging that the current district maps put certain voters at an unfair advantage.
“You’re sort of punishing people by what we call viewpoint discrimination,” says Phillips. “That is, they are expressing their viewpoint by voting, and if they are voting in a way that again, when you’re drawing the maps and trying to win as many districts, you’re putting those voters in a situation where theres so many of them that there’s no competition or you’re spreading them out.”
While Phillips says a ruling in the favor of Common Cause would bring short term remedy, the only way to solve the issue of gerrymandering once and for all is through redistricting reform.
“We need to have another entity drawing the maps besides the legislators themselves,” says Phillips. “As the old soundbite goes, lawmakers should not be drawing their own districts. We think a nonpartisan citizen’s commission would be the best alternative.”
More information is available at commoncausenc.org.