Congressional Dominance At Stake With Supreme Court to Rule Soon

  • Justices set to rule in North Carolina congressional case
  • Court said Alabama map weakened Black voting power

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Next week’s US Supreme Court decision in a North Carolina case will guide the outcome of other redistricting lawsuits and perhaps provide motivation for more states to redraw congressional districts.

In Moore v. Harper, Republican legislators asked justices to rule that the US Constitution grants state legislatures near-exclusive authority to shape federal election rules — with little to no judicial review from state courts.

Taking state courts out of the mix would be a game-changer in states with one-party control, beginning in North Carolina, where the Democratic governor can’t veto maps and Republicans drew a congressional map that the state Supreme Court said was so partisan it violated the constitution.

And it will be possible to draw a direct line from what the high court allows to control of Congress after the 2024 elections, where Democrats have a chance to gain more seats, depending on the way district maps are shaped in states such as New York, Wisconsin, Alabama, and Louisiana.

In North Carolina, a state court-imposed configuration was used for the 2022 election, in which the two parties evenly split, each taking seven of the 14 US House seats. Reinstating the preferred GOP map would lock in probable GOP victories in 10 districts.

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It’s possible, though, that the US Supreme Court might not weigh in on the limits of state court powers. After an election changed the makeup of the North Carolina Supreme Court, giving it a Republican majority, the new court overruled the decision that triggered the federal case. That raises the possibility that the justices could say Moore v. Harper is moot.

“If the justices were to dismiss Moore without reaching the merits, we may not see a majority opinion in the case,” Amy Howe, a Supreme Court analyst and former law professor, wrote on her Howe on the Court blog.

More State Action

The outcome of Moore v. Harper will show Ohio what to expect with its redistricting lawsuit. There, Republican legislators allege the state Supreme Court’s rejection of their congressional map violated the Constitution’s Elections Clause and usurped legislators’ authority to govern congressional elections.

Ohio’s GOP-run legislature is under a state Supreme Court order to draw new lines for the 2024 election, but the US Supreme Court is reviewing an appeal. Under the 2022 election map, Republicans won 10 of 15 seats.

Alabama: After the US Supreme Court said an Alabama congressional map with just one Black-majority district likely violated voting-rights protections for Black residents, a federal judge set a July 21 deadline for the Republican-led state legislature to enact a new seven-district map that includes a second heavily Black district. If lawmakers can’t meet that deadline, a special master will commence work on a map. Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen (R) has said new lines need to be in place by about Oct. 1 to prepare for the state’s early primary election in March.

Louisiana: Following the Alabama ruling, Louisiana attorney general Jeff Landry (R) and secretary of state Kyle Ardoin (R) asked the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments about its map, which has five districts that are White-majority and strongly Republican and one district that’s Black-majority and heavily Democratic.

In a legal filing, the state officials said it’s “improbable that a map with two majority-minority districts could be constitutionally drawn” in Louisiana. Democratic lawyers asked the Supreme Court to affirm a lower court’s June 2022 ruling that blocked the Republican legislature’s map. The Supreme Court paused that ruling and allowed the November 2022 elections to proceed under that map as it reviewed the Alabama case.

Georgia: A federal judge set a Friday deadline for additional legal filings “to address the June 8, 2023 opinion issued by the United States Supreme Court in the Alabama case, Allen v. Milligan.” Opponents of the Republican legislature’s map allege it “cracked or packed” people of color to dilute their voting strength. Republicans defended their map and said they’re confident they can maintain their 9-5 majority in Georgia’s House delegation even if new lines are needed.

Arkansas: Black voters appealed to the Supreme Court to review a previously dismissed lawsuit challenging the state’s congressional map, which shifted some Black voters out of the Little Rock-based 2nd District of Rep. French Hill (R) and into two other districts that are more heavily Republican.

South Carolina: In May, before it ruled in Allen v. Milligan, the Supreme Court said it would review a South Carolina racial gerrymandering case that centers on the reconfiguration of the Charleston-area 1st District of Rep. Nancy Mace (R), whom GOP legislators buttressed in the line-drawing process after she won a close election in 2020. In January, a three-judge federal panel invalidated the 1st District as an unlawful racial gerrymander under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

New York: Democratic lawyers allege New York state courts wrongly allowed a special master to draw the state’s congressional map under a single judge — instead of allowing the state’s independent redistricting commission to complete its work and submit a second set of maps for the Democratic-controlled legislature to consider. New York courts invalidated the legislature’s preferred map as an unlawful partisan gerrymander.

Democrats won just 15 of 26 districts in heavily Democratic New York in the 2022 election under the special master’s map, though that below-expectations performance owed less to the map, under which Biden carried 21 districts in 2020, and more to an unexpectedly close governor’s election that had downballot effects aiding Republicans.

Utah: The state Supreme Court next month will hear arguments over whether partisan gerrymandering claims are justifiable under the Utah Constitution. The case arises from a lawsuit brought by advocacy groups who challenged the Republican state legislature’s map, which divided populous Salt Lake County across four districts that all have a decided GOP lean. In a legal filing last November, Utah Republican legislators noted that Moore v. Harper would decide the extent to which the US Constitution “precludes state courts from reviewing congressional districts.”

Wisconsin: A redistricting lawsuit has been promised once control of the state Supreme Court changes on Aug. 1, when Justice-elect Janet Protasiewicz takes her seat. Democrats want a new map that makes two of the six GOP-held districts more competitive. But if the court is cut out, adding a justice with a different philosophy won’t matter.

The case is Moore v. Harper, U.S., No. 21-1271.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at; George Cahlink at

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