The North Carolina Supreme Court Attacked Democracy in Broad Daylight
Whoever said democracy dies in darkness hasn’t met the new North Carolina Supreme Court, whose Republican majority is proudly and systematically hacking away at our democracy in broad daylight.
Just one month after the newly elected Republican majority court was sworn in, our state’s highest court made the unprecedented decision to rehear two key voting rights cases on partisan gerrymandering and voter ID. As Democracy Docket has covered, nothing changed in these cases except for the partisan makeup of the court. They simply reheard these cases because their own political party didn’t like the original ruling. It’s a blatant injection of partisanship in the court and confirms our fear that the Republican-controlled Legislature is now allowed to operate without accountability from the judicial branch.
Less than three months later, the court ruled to reverse the two cases, giving the Republican legislature free reign to gerrymander district maps and enact discriminatory voter ID laws. On the same day, the court also ruled to take away voting rights from people with previous felony convictions serving probation or parole.
These are a trio of tragic rulings for voters across our state brought to us by the radical Republican majority in control of our courts that are specifically designed to silence voters, especially Black and Brown voters. They also signal a sharp degradation of voting rights that should concern us all.
We should be making it easier to vote — not harder. With these rulings, the Republican majority on the court pushed their own partisan goals instead of defending our democracy and the freedom of North Carolinians to choose their elected leaders. It’s a shameful and un-American power grab that will harm North Carolinians. As Justice Anita Earls wrote in her dissent, the ruling “delivers on the threat that ‘our decisions are fleeting, and our precedent is only as enduring as the terms of the justices who sit on the bench.’”
North Carolina has been ground zero for partisan gerrymandering and voters in the Tar Heel state have been subject to blatant voter suppression at the hands of the Republican Legislature for far too long. In 2022, fair maps led to a 7-7 congressional delegation that finally looked a little bit more like North Carolina. Now, this court continues to make more and more clear that it will give into the demands of the Republican-led Legislature and further enable their partisan schemes — regardless of the state constitution or the precedent set before them. And each and every day, public confidence in our courts is being threatened as North Carolinians bear witness to one of the most partisan courts in our history.
With a new Republican supermajority in the Legislature and new Republican majority on the state Supreme Court, the Republican Party now has unchecked power to gerrymander its legislative and congressional districts to ensure that legislation like their latest ban on abortion can get enacted despite it being out of touch with the majority of North Carolina voters.
North Carolinians overwhelmingly see this as a private, deeply personal health care decision. They want politicians to leave it alone and keep abortion legal in our state, but instead Republicans in Raleigh have rushed through extreme legislation that will harm North Carolinians. Despite Republican attempts to disguise this abortion ban as “mainstream,” Senate Bill 20 would dramatically reduce access to abortion and could cause women’s health clinics across the state to shut down.
Know this: North Carolina Democrats will not be quiet. We will not stand by while this court attacks our rights. We will not stand by while Republicans attempt to gerrymander their way into more years of unchecked power. From the local to the national level, we are standing up against this appalling display of partisanship from what is supposed to be an independent judiciary and standing strong in the fight to protect our democracy. We are standing up for the people of North Carolina who deserve to be able to choose who represents them — not the other way around.
There is a long road ahead to take back the state Supreme Court and restore integrity in our judicial branch. It starts by shining a bright light on these injustices and relentlessly speaking truth to power at every turn.
Anderson Clayton is the chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party and the youngest chairperson of any state Democratic party.