Legislative Redistricting Expert to North Carolina Superior Court: Congressional Maps Continue to Show Excessive Levels of Partisan Bias

2.22.2022

New Amicus Brief is Latest Action by States United to Halt Partisan Gerrymandering in North Carolina

Raleigh, NC — On Monday, Asher D. Hildebrand, an Associate Professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and expert in the field of legislative redistricting, submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in North Carolina Superior Court in Wake County in support of an ongoing challenge to the gerrymandered maps passed by the North Carolina General Assembly. The brief argues that while the new bipartisan plan for the State House does well on measures of partisan fairness, the State Senate and Congressional maps continue to show excessive levels of partisan bias. The brief goes on to provide feedback on the proposed maps submitted to the court and connects the statistics used by the parties to important principles of competitiveness and evenhandedness that date back to the founding of the country. Hildebrand is represented by the States United Democracy Center and Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd.

Earlier this month, the North Carolina Supreme Court recognized for the first time that North Carolina’s constitution prohibits extreme partisan gerrymanders, invalidated the plans the General Assembly enacted after the 2020 Census, and returned the case to the superior court for further proceedings.

“This case will not only decide whether North Carolinians’ constitutional right to equal voting power will be fulfilled in this year’s elections; it will also set standards for future maps and future challenges,” said Asher D. Hildebrand, an Associate Professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and expert in the field of legislative redistricting. “The question before the Court is not whether these maps are better than the invalidated ones; it is whether they pass constitutional muster. And in the case of the Senate and U.S. House maps, the Court has reason for continued skepticism.”

“Extreme partisan gerrymandering undermines the North Carolina Constitution’s demand that ‘every vote must count equally,’” said Christine Sun, Legal Director at the States United Democracy Center. “Fair maps are critical to protecting our democracy and preventing elected officials from entrenching themselves in power in perpetuity.”

Key excerpts from the brief are included below:

The remedial maps enacted by the General Assembly are a marked improvement over the previous maps; indeed, the State House map that resulted from bipartisan compromise scores well on all four partisan fairness criteria discussed below. But the remedial plans for the North Carolina Senate and U.S. House of Representatives continue to show significant and concerning partisan bias. This continuing bias calls for the Court’s careful scrutiny, and any remedial plans should seek to achieve the greatest degree of partisan fairness practicable.

Absent other considerations, competitive districts are a good thing. They enhance engagement by parties, politicians, and voters and often lead to less extreme political and policy outcomes. But competition within districts must be balanced against other democratic principles that have been recognized as political rights by this and other courts. At bottom, the right that the Supreme Court has recognized is the voters’ right to “substantially equal voting power.” Just as packing voters into uncompetitive districts can serve partisan ends, cracking them into unnaturally competitive districts can have the same effect. In a fair map, competitive areas should have competitive districts, but deep-red and deep-blue areas should be able to elect candidates that align with their preferences, as well. Thus, swing districts make sense in mixed areas of the state (such as the Sandhills or the Wake County suburbs), but not in deep-red areas (such as Randolph County) or deep-blue areas (such as Durham County).

This is the fourth amicus curiae brief that States United and Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd have submitted in the North Carolina redistricting cases. Read more about States United’s legal work in North Carolina and states across the country here.

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About the States United Democracy Center

The States United Democracy Center is a nonpartisan organization advancing free, fair, and secure elections. We focus on connecting state officials, law enforcement leaders, and pro-democracy partners across America with the tools and expertise they need to safeguard our democracy. For more information, visit www.statesuniteddemocracy.org.