This blog post was written by Janet Hoy, president of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina.
This month the U.S. Supreme Court will issue their decision in Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina, our redistricting lawsuit that could set a standard for the whole nation when it comes to partisan gerrymandering.
The case was argued in late March, and I was lucky enough to be in the courtroom for the arguments.
If you’ve never been to the Supreme Court before, the building itself is rather intimidating. Constructed in the neoclassical style, the marble exterior is sourced from a variety of states including Alabama and Vermont, and inside the building features Spanish and Italian-veined marble. It gives the building a sense of ponderous permanence and stability. The inside columns and friezes surrounding the courtroom depict Roman men (and a few women) lounging and holding musical instruments. It is massive and impressive.
After the justices conducted their morning business, including announcing decisions in previous cases, it was time to focus on redistricting. Our case, Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina was consolidated with another case out of North Carolina, Rucho v Common Cause, and was heard along with a third case out of Maryland, Benisek v. Lamone. The cases were argued in sequence: Rucho v. Common Cause, followed by Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina, argued by our attorney, Allison Riggs of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and then the Maryland case.
One thing that struck me as important about the Supreme Court hearing these cases together was the balance they demonstrate collectively. The two Rucho cases out of my state of North Carolina are examples of a partisan gerrymander by Republican lawmakers. But in Maryland, there was a similar situation where the Democrats did the same thing.
As I sat listening to the attorneys describe North Carolina as the most extreme form of partisan gerrymandering in the country, I felt a sense of pride in representing the League in this case. Our organization represents the voters, and making sure the people of this country are fairly represented by their government is essential to our mission.
Our organization represents the voters, and making sure the people of this country are fairly represented by their government is essential to our mission.
As our attorney Allison Riggs made her case, she explained that there is currently no meaningful ability to correct an extreme partisan gerrymander with the current legislature for North Carolina. This is why we are asking the court to set a standard when it comes to partisan gerrymandering. She argued that, if the courts let the current North Carolina map stand, then the court would be endorsing unfettered partisan gerrymandering.
Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina proposes a three-prong test for determining when a partisan gerrymander has gone too far: there was clearly identifiable partisan intent on a per-district basis, the partisan effect is district-specific, and there is a severe and durable effect.
Leaving the courtroom that afternoon, I was so proud of Allison and our entire legal team that included Campaign Legal Center. Allison was articulate, assertive, and confident, and she answered the Justices’ questions effectively. I’m so grateful we had such an impressive legal mind to represent the League of Women Voters of North Carolina.
As we wait for the decisions this month, I am confident we presented a strong case for the justices to consider. In writing the story of American democracy, it felt like I am now a part of a piece of our history.