Raleigh, N.C. (Feb. 14, 2022) — The North Carolina Supreme Court released its full opinion in the case Harper et. al. v. Hall et. al. Monday, striking down the state legislature’s discriminatory state and Congressional maps. The court first signaled its 4-3 ruling on Feb. 4 in an abbreviated order setting guidelines and a timeframe for lawmakers to redraw voting maps.
The landmark opinion, penned by Justice Robin Hudson, and joined by Justices Earls, Ervin, and Morgan, sets a clear precedent that partisan gerrymandering violates North Carolina’s Constitution.
“Partisan gerrymandering creates the same harm as malapportionment, which has previously been held to violate the state constitution: some peoples’ votes have more power than others,” wrote Hudson. “Today, we hold that the enacted maps violate several rights guaranteed to the people by our state Constitution.”
The Court also addressed its role in deciding political questions, noting that, “for a time, federal courts initially forswore virtually any role in the ‘political thicket of apportionment.’”
“The Court’s reasons for entering the thicket are relevant today: the Supreme Court recognized that absent its intervention to enforce constitutional rights, our system of self-governance would be representative and responsive to the people’s will in name only.”
The historic ruling is also a victory for Black North Carolinians, who were most harmed by the legislature’s extreme partisan gerrymandering. The Court’s opinion clearly requires lawmakers to follow established North Carolina law from the 2002 and 2003 rulings in Stephenson and conduct a racially polarized voting analysis, the key to drawing districts protecting the ability of communities of color to elect candidates of their choice.
Hilary Harris Klein, Senior Voting Rights Counsel with South Coalition for Social Justice, which represented plaintiff Common Cause in the lawsuit, released the following statement.
“Southern Coalition for Social Justice celebrates this total and historic victory for North Carolina voters. While the N.C. General Assembly disregarded our calls for an equitable redistricting process, what cannot be denied is today’s landmark opinion by the N.C. Supreme Court means North Carolinians should expect fair maps free of back-door dealings, extreme partisanship, and racial discrimination.”
The General Assembly has until Feb. 18 to submit new maps to the Wake County Superior Court. Comments on the submitted maps must be filed with the court by 5 p.m. Feb. 21. The trial court will decide on the approval of the submitted plans by 5 p.m. Feb. 23.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.
Global law firm Hogan Lovells has a long tradition of supporting ground-breaking social developments, focusing on access to justice and the rule of law. As lawyers we recognize this commitment is part of our professional practice and collectively we spend 150,000+ pro bono hours per year on work to achieve lasting impact for others.