August 8, 2019
Gov. Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein believe GOP lawmakers have used their power over redistricting to insulate the legislature from the votes of many North Carolinians, according to a brief they filed jointly Wednesday with the Wake County Superior Court.
Cooper and Stein, both Democrats, wrote that partisan gerrymandering violates the constitution and the state courts are fully equipped to handle the problem. They filed their amicus brief in Common Cause v. Lewis not long after a bipartisan group of former governors filed theirs, also encouraging the court to throw out the unfair practice.
“From the Atlantic to the mountains, partisan mapmakers have drawn district lines block by block, precinct by precinct, with one goal in mind: stopping voters from voting one political party out of power,” states the brief from Cooper and Stein. “Instead of voters choosing their representatives, representatives are entrenching themselves in power by choosing their voters.”
Partisan gerrymandering, they said, clashes with the constitutional foundation of protecting the people’s right to govern themselves. It also denies voters their right to free elections, denies voters equal protection and punishes voters for their political speech and association, according to the brief.
Cooper and Stein also said in their brief that North Carolina case law yields a test to measure partisan gerrymandering — something no one else proposed during the trial, which led to criticism from Republicans.
“Under that test, a court can find an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander when a districting plan reflects a prohibited intent: an intent to influence the outcome of elections by discriminating against certain voters based on their party affiliation or voting history,” the document states. “This test for political gerrymandering corresponds with the practice’s key features: intentional manipulation of the electoral process and intentional discrimination against certain voters to thwart the people’s right to govern themselves.”
Post-trial briefs in Common Cause were due yesterday. It will likely be weeks or upward of a month before the court issues its decision on partisan gerrymandering.