Cooper, Stein hope to influence redistricting rehearing at NC Supreme Court

Image of the NC Supreme Court, Carolina Journal photo by Maya Reagan

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  • Gov. Roy Cooper and N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein, both Democrats, filed a motion Friday opposing Republican legislative leaders in a redistricting case at the N.C. Supreme Court.
  • Friday marked the deadline for briefs in state Supreme Court rehearings of cases dealing with election maps and voter ID.

Gov. Roy Cooper and N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein, both Democrats, argue against Republican legislative leaders in a new court filing at the N.C. Supreme Court.

Cooper and Stein filed a motion Friday to submit a friend-of-the-court brief in this month’s rehearing of the Harper v. Hall redistricting case.

Friday marked the deadline for briefs opposing state lawmakers in two cases scheduled for rehearing. The high court will reconsider Harper v. Hall on March 14. It will hold new arguments in the Holmes v. Moore voter identification case on March 15.

“Our state constitution is meant to establish a democracy, under which the people of our State are empowered to choose their representatives, not the other way around,” according to the motion from Cooper and Stein, signed by N.C. Solicitor General Ryan Park. “Partisan gerrymandering subverts our democracy by allowing legislators to manipulate district lines to entrench themselves in power.”

“Given the profound importance of these issues for the governance of our State, the Governor and the Attorney General previously filed amicus briefs in earlier appeals in these cases, asking this Court to hold that partisan gerrymandering violates our state constitution,” Park added. “This Court, after hearing those arguments, correctly held that ‘[p]artisan gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts violates’ multiple provisions of our state constitution.”

“Now, Legislative Defendants ask this Court to take the extraordinary step of overruling this precedent, simply because the composition of this Court recently changed,” Park argued. “Legislative Defendants also seek this Court’s blessing to, once again, draw districts to predetermine the result of future elections to the greatest extent possible.”

“Granting this relief would undermine respect for our State’s judiciary and the rule of law, by showing that the weight of the Court’s precedents depends on the composition of its membership,” according to the motion setting out Cooper’s and Stein’s views. “But more fundamentally, granting this relief would also have grave consequences for the future of self-
government in our State. Because overruling Harper would so profoundly undermine the government in which the Governor and the Attorney General were elected to serve, they have strong interests in being heard.”

On Dec. 16, little more than one month after N.C. voters replaced two Democratic state Supreme Court justices with Republicans, the outgoing court’s 4-3 Democratic majority issued party-line decisions in two cases that ruled against Republican legislative leaders.

In the Harper v. Hall redistricting case, the high court threw out Republican legislators’ state Senate election map and confirmed a lower court’s decision to throw out a congressional election map. In Holmes v. Moore, the 4-3 Democratic majority affirmed a party-line trial court ruling throwing out the state’s 2018 photo voter ID law.

The new state Supreme Court, with a 5-2 Republican majority, granted lawmakers’ request to rehear both cases.