Moore v. Harper

Voting Rights
Megaphone and woman holding sign that says "count every vote"

Case Summary

Formerly Harper v. Hall and Common Cause v. Berger
Filed 12/13/2021
Updated 06/27/2023

Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed this challenge to North Carolina's state legislative and congressional maps on behalf of client Common Cause in 2021 in the North Carolina State Supreme Court, in partnership with co-counsel from Hogan Lovells. In their complaint, plaintiffs alleged all three maps constituted intentional partisan gerrymanders that deprived North Carolina voters of their right to Free Elections under the North Carolina state constitution.

After consolidation with other similar actions and an expedited trial in early 2023, the trial held all three maps were intentional partisan gerrymanders but that the issue was nonjusticiable under the North Carolina state constitution. On an expedited appeal, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed in February 2022, declaring partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional in the state and ordering new maps be used for the 2022 general election.

North Carolina's legislative leaders appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, advancing a dangerous and baseless theory of the U.S. Constitutions Elections Clause that would allow state legislatures to violate their own state constitutions when enacting voting laws (the Independent State Legislature Theory). On June 23, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected this appeal and held that state legislatures are bound to their state constitutions when enacting laws regulating federal elections.

When the North Carolina Supreme Court changed partisan composition following the 2022 general election, the court reheard and reversed its prior holding in an unprecedented procedural posture. The June 27, 2023 decision ended North Carolina's ban on partisan gerrymandering and greenlighting the state legislature's ability to re-enact gerrymandered maps in 2023.

Why it's Important

The ruling in Moore v. Harper is a major victory for voters, given the potential the case had to shatter the checks and balances that serve as underpinnings of American democracy. By rejecting the reckless “independent state legislature theory” at the heart of the case, the Supreme Court extinguished partisan legislative attempts to manipulate election rules and voting maps without facing the checks and balances served by state courts and governors.

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