Voting-rights advocates are in a North Carolina state court in Raleigh this month, arguing in three lawsuits that Republican gerrymanders of the State Legislature and the state’s 14 seats in the House of Representatives are so extreme that they violate the state Constitution.
Only two years ago, some of the same lawyers were arguing that remarkably similar Republican gerrymanders of the same legislature, drawn a decade ago, violated the same clauses of the constitution. That trial ended with a resounding verdict in their favor, but only after the gerrymandered maps were used for almost a decade.
Winning those kinds of cases, however belatedly, now appears much more of a long shot. Experts say that even as gerrymanders become ever more egregious, the legal avenues to overturn them are becoming narrower.
“The good news is that litigation will probably go a little faster than in the last decade,” Richard L. Hasen, an election-law expert at the University of California, Irvine, and a longtime critic of gerrymanders, said this past week. “The bad news is that it will progress faster because the plaintiffs will lose.”
More and more states — mostly Republican like Ohio and Texas, but now Democratic ones like Illinois — are drawing maps that effectively guarantee that the party in power stays in power.
North Carolina underscores how high the stakes and how weak the legal guardrails are. [Continue reading…]