Q&A as North Carolina gerrymandered map case goes to Supreme Court

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Tuesday’s court ruling that North Carolina’s political maps can be used in the upcoming election answered some questions from those who follow state politics, but also raised several others.

Here are some questions that Tar Heel State voters may be concerned about now, after the decision brought a big win for Republican politicians.

And if there’s anything not covered here that you think we should add, email reporter Will Doran at [email protected]

Q: When will the 2022 elections take place?

A: The general election is in November, as usual. The primary is now May 17, having been pushed back from the usual March date to give more time for this court case to come to an end.

Q: Will we have new constituencies for the elections or will we use the ones the legislature passed last year?

A: This is still the biggest unanswered question right now. If Tuesday’s decision stands – or even if it’s reversed, but too close to the primary – then the election will go under the cards of the legislature. But there is also always a chance that the maps will be deemed unconstitutional and redrawn before the election.

Q: If districts are valid, how do I know which district I live in?

A: Go to the Legislature Redistricting website at ncleg.gov/Redistricting, where there are interactive maps linked for the new US House, NC House, and NC Senate maps. Each allows people to zoom in on maps or enter an address to see what neighborhood it is in.

The court decision

Q: What did the judges say about gerrymandering in the cards?

A: The maps are intentionally gerrymandered to give Republicans an advantage in future elections, a panel of judges found, with constituencies drawn to diminish the influence of Democratic voters.

Q: But I thought you said the Republicans won the case?

They did it. The justices went on to say that partisan gerrymandering like that is not unconstitutional, even if it could “subject the state to unwanted attention, mockery and derision”. So they left the cards standing. Redistricting is an inherently political process controlled by the party in charge of the legislature, according to the ruling, so that lawmakers can use it to harm their political opponents — as long as they don’t engage in racial gerrymandering, which that the judges said was not the case here.

Q: Is this the final decision?

A: No. It was only the decision of the court of first instance. Left-leaning challengers who have sued the cards have already announced they will appeal.

Q: How long will calls take?

A: The case should soon end up before the Supreme Court of North Carolina. How quickly is still unknown, but this spring’s primary has been delayed precisely because the Supreme Court has said it is urgent to conclude this case in time for the 2022 election. It’s a major change from the past. , when gerrymandering prosecutions had been dragging on for years. Most elections in North Carolina over the past decade, for example, have been conducted using cards later ruled unconstitutional because prosecutions have taken so long.

Court policy

Q: Both sides talk a lot about the politics of judges. Why is this important?

A: North Carolina judges are elected in partisan races, which is particularly relevant in a case like this – as it has massive political implications for at least the rest of the decade, and potentially longer. The trial court that ruled unanimously in favor of GOP lawmakers on Tuesday had a 2-1 Republican majority. Their decision relied heavily on a 5-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019, when that court’s conservative majority reached a similar conclusion in the face of opposition from more liberal justices. But the North Carolina Supreme Court, where this trial will end, has a 4-3 Democratic majority.

Q: Do any of the justices of the North Carolina Supreme Court have conflicts of interest?

A: May be. Republicans and Democrats are trying to get some of the justices on the other side to recuse themselves. So far, GOP lawmakers have asked Democratic Justices Sam Ervin IV and Anita Earls to recuse themselves, and challengers have asked Republican Justice Phil Berger Jr. to recuse himself. Other recusal motions could also occur.

Q: Why are they being asked to recuse themselves? Are they going?

A: In North Carolina, the decision on recusal is entirely up to each judge, with no additional oversight, so they can make whatever decision they want. Republicans say Ervin should recuse himself because he is running for office in 2022, and Earls should recuse himself because one of the liberal groups involved in the lawsuit helped bolster his 2018 campaign for a seat in the court. The other side says Berger should recuse himself because his father is the leader of the NC Senate and one of the main defendants in the case.

For more on North Carolina government and politics, listen to the Under the Dome political podcast from The News & Observer and NC Insider. You can find it at link.chtbl.com/underthedomenc or wherever you get your podcasts.

Monster, Part 1: So you want to make a card…
In the first episode of this special series Under the Dome, we explore the rules of redistricting – the drawing of new electoral maps. These rules often conflict, and this friction is one of the main reasons North Carolina takes center stage in battles over gerrymandering.


Monster, part 2: what gerrymandering is not
In the second episode of this Under the Dome special, we take a look at why defining gerrymandering is harder than it looks. Odd shapes don’t always translate into political shenanigans. And some of our own choices – about who we are and where we live – complicate the picture.


Monster, part 3: math on the front line
In the third episode, we dive deep into the math that could be the key to quantifying and combating gerrymandering. Some of these calculations go back to the secret atomic bomb labs of the United States. And while complex, its inner workings are based on familiar ideas.


Monster, Part 4: All Eyes on Raleigh
In the fourth episode of this special series Under the Dome, we unravel the politics of mapping today, the potential for reform, and how the choices state lawmakers make will impact the legal fight over the lines of justice. district for years.


This story was originally published January 12, 2022 1:26 p.m.

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Will Doran reports on North Carolina politics, particularly the state legislature. In 2016 he started PolitiFact NC, and before that he reported on local issues in several cities and towns. Contact him at [email protected] or (919) 836-2858.

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