WASHINGTON, D.C. — A group of North Carolina voters today filed a state-level lawsuit challenging the Tar Heel State’s newly enacted congressional, state House and state Senate maps, which the Republican-controlled Legislature redrew in October 2023.
The North Carolina Legislature’s redrawing of the state’s congressional and legislative maps ensued nearly five months after the North Carolina Supreme Court’s newly constituted Republican majority overturned its prior decisions prohibiting partisan gerrymandering in an April 2023 decision. In doing so, the state’s highest court foreclosed future partisan gerrymandering challenges to any North Carolina map under the state constitution’s Free Elections Clause.
Today’s lawsuit is the fourth legal challenge to be filed over the new maps, but the first case brought in state court. Unlike the three ongoing federal lawsuits that claim the maps harm minority voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act and U.S. Constitution, the new complaint asserts that the districts violate the North Carolina Constitution under a novel legal argument.
In particular, the plaintiffs contend that in drawing the state’s new maps, the North Carolina General Assembly created an unfair partisan advantage for Republican candidates, thereby violating the right to “fair” elections — a right that is not enumerated in the state constitution. However, the lawsuit explains that since the North Carolina Constitution guarantees citizens a right to “frequent” and “free” elections, it “surely…guarantees them the right to ‘fair’ elections” as well.
“To have any value, those ‘frequent’ and ‘free’ elections must also be fair.’ Thus, there is a right to ‘fair’ elections secured as an unenumerated right in the [state constitution]…reserved by the people and fundamental to the very concept of elections and the underpinnings of democracy” the complaint states.
The plaintiffs maintain that the 6th, 13th and 14th Congressional Districts — which encompass Davidson, Franklin and Burke Counties respectively — unduly favor Republicans and contravene the right to “fair” elections under the North Carolina Constitution. The suit also mounts challenges to the 7th State Senate District, which includes New Hanover County, and the 105th State House District, which covers part of Mecklenburg County.
The lawsuit asks the state court to declare that “the citizens of North Carolina have an unenumerated constitutional right to fair elections” and to prohibit the use of the challenged maps for the 2024 election and future elections.