The North Carolina Supreme Court issued a significant ruling on Friday that could have massive implications in the 2024 elections.
In a 5-2 decision, the court ruled the state Constitution does not grant state courts the authority to issue decisions on the issue of partisan gerrymandering because it expressly enumerates redistricting authority to state lawmakers.
Chief Justice Paul Newby (R) explained in the court opinion:
Our constitution expressly assigns the redistricting authority to the General Assembly subject to explicit limitations in the text. Those limitations do not address partisan gerrymandering. It is not within the authority of this Court to amend the constitution to create such limitations on a responsibility that is textually assigned to another branch. Furthermore, were this Court to create such a limitation, there is no judicially discoverable or manageable standard for adjudicating such claims.
The ruling reverses a decision the state Supreme Court made one year ago when it overturned redistricting maps drawn by Republicans on grounds that they were unconstitutional and "unlawful partisan gerrymanders."
But at the time, Democrats had a 4-3 majority on the Supreme Court; now, Republicans hold a 5-2 majority.
The new decision means that Republicans, who hold a super-majorities in both the state House and state Senate, can redraw congressional districts to benefit Republicans. Currently, North Carolina is represented by seven Republicans and seven Democrats in the U.S. House.
But if Republicans pass the map that was struck down last year, Republicans will be able to win as many as 11 seats — a net of four seats. That means the Republican majority in the U.S. House will grow.
Importantly, the court also reversed a 2018 decision that struck down a voter ID law on grounds that it was racially discriminatory.
The ruling on redistricting has significant implications for Moore v. Harper, a U.S. Supreme Court case for which justices heard oral arguments in December.
The case, which was brought by North Carolina Republicans, seeks to determine whether state courts can nullify election regulations passed by state legislators. The case was expected to issue a ruling on the so-called "independent state legislature" theory, which argues that the U.S. Constitution does not grant state courts jurisdiction to review election laws.
But now the Supreme Court may not issue a ruling, instead dismissing the case as improvidently granted. If the court does decide to issue a ruling, the earliest it would come is next month.
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