The Republican-controlled North Carolina Legislature, asserting that state legislatures had exclusive power over redistricting, petitioned the Supreme Court for review, after the state supreme court struck down its redistricting plan.
In 2020, states were required to redraw their congressional districts after the decennial Census. North Carolina gained an additional congressional seat due to population growth. After the Republican-controlled state legislature redrew the Congressional maps, several plaintiffs sued, asserting the plan was a partisan gerrymander that gave 10 out of 14 seats to Republicans. The North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the districts, ruling they were a partisan gerrymander that violated the Free and Equal Elections Clause of the state Constitution. A special master subsequently drew the maps after the legislature failed to produce maps to properly remedy the gerrymander.
In March 2022, the legislature then petitioned the Supreme Court for review, arguing that under Article I of the United States Constitution, state legislatures had exclusive power over Congressional redistricting and regulating federal elections in their states. Under their theory, known as the Independent State Legislature Theory, state courts could not block Congressional gerrymanders or laws passed by state legislatures regulating federal elections on state law grounds. The Supreme Court denied the petition on the grounds it was too late to potentially impose new Congressional districts, pursuant to the Purcell doctrine, which limits election law changes near an election.
The Supreme Court subsequently granted a second petition for review by the legislature, with oral arguments to be heard on December 7, 2022, during the Court’s October term.
Should the Supreme Court agree with the legislature, state courts in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida, and other states could become powerless to strike down gerrymandered Congressional maps, voter suppression laws, and other anti-democracy legislation using state laws guaranteeing free and equal elections.
On October 26, 2022, the League of Women Voters of the United States, on behalf of all fifty state Leagues and LWV of the District of Columbia, filed an amicus brief urging the Court to rule against the Legislature and protect state courts’ power to use state law to protect free and fair federal elections.
The League is represented by the Fair Elections Center and O’Melveny & Myers LLP in this matter.
Plaintiffs file suit to strike down congressional maps
Several North Carolina voters file a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court, asserting the state's new congressional districts were illegal partisan gerrymanders under the North Carolina Constitution’s Free and Equal Elections Clause.
Second group of plaintiffs file suit to strike down North Carolina's districts
The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters files a separate lawsuit, alleging the state legislative districts and congressional districts are unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders under the North Carolina state Constitution.
Wake County Superior Court denies plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction in both cases
The Wake County Superior Court rules that the plaintiffs did not have sufficient standing to challenge the maps and were unlikely to prove intentional partisan gerrymandering or prevail on claims of Equal Protection clause violations. The two cases were consolidated by the court.
NC Supreme Court strikes down districts as partisan gerrymanders
The North Carolina Supreme Court rules the congressional and state legislative districts were partisan gerrymanders that favored Republicans in violation of the Free and Equal Elections Clause of the North Carolina State Constitution.
Wake County Superior Court adopts remedial maps
Pursuant to the North Carolina Supreme Court’s order, the Superior Court adopts new legislative and congressional districts.
Defendants seek emergency stay
The North Carolina Legislature files an emergency application to the US Supreme Court, asserting that the North Carolina State Supreme Court had no power to strike down the Congressional maps because the US Constitution gave state legislatures exclusive power to regulate federal elections in their states. This is known as the Independent State Legislature Theory.
US Supreme Court denies legislature’s request for stay
The US Supreme Court denies the North Carolina Legislature’s emergency application for a stay, citing the Purcell principle, which discourages changing election regulations and districts immediately before an election.
Defendants petition for writ of certiorari
The North Carolina Legislature files a second petition for a writ of certiorari, asserting that state courts have no power to strike down congressional maps on state law grounds, including state Constitutions’ Free and Equal Elections clauses. Under this theory, only Congress could override state legislatures’ regulations for congressional elections.
US Supreme Court grants petition for writ of certiorari
League files amicus brief
The League of Women Voters of the United States, represented by the Fair Elections Center and O’Melveny and Myers LLP, files an amicus brief on behalf of all state Leagues and the LWV of the District of Columbia, arguing that adopting the North Carolina Legislature’s theory would cause chaos in election administration and confuse voters by creating massive administrative burdens for elections officials, and allow states to create two separate sets of rules for state and federal elections.
Supreme Court hears oral argument
North Carolina Supreme Court grants rehearing
The North Carolina Supreme Court, in a party line 5-2 vote, grants the North Carolina legislature’s request for rehearing, allowing the court to potentially reverse its previous ruling striking down the state’s Congressional maps.
United States Supreme Court orders additional briefing on mootness
The United States Supreme Court orders the parties to file briefs on whether the case is moot in light of the North Carolina Supreme Court's decision to rehear the case.
North Carolina Supreme Court holds oral argument for rehearing
North Carolina Supreme Court overturns previous ruling on gerrymandering
The North Carolina Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision, with all Republican justices in the majority and all Democratic justices in the minority, reverses its previous decision declaring the Congressional map an illegal partisan gerrymander under the state constitution. The new ruling states partisan gerrymandering is non-justiciable under state law and allows the state legislature to redraw the Congressional districts.