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Rucho v. Common Cause

Supreme Court of the United States

March 26, 2019, Argued; June 27, 2019, Decided1

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Opinion

 [*2491]  Chief Justice Roberts delivered the opinion of the Court.

Voters and other plaintiffs in North Carolina and Maryland challenged their States’ congressional districting maps as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. The North Carolina plaintiffs complained that the State’s districting plan discriminated against Democrats; the Maryland [***10]  plaintiffs complained that their State’s plan discriminated against Republicans. The plaintiffs alleged that the gerrymandering violated the First Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Elections Clause, and Article I, §2, of the Constitution. The District Courts in both cases ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and the defendants appealed directly to this Court.

These cases require us to consider once again whether claims of excessive partisanship in districting are “justiciable”—that is, properly suited for resolution by the federal courts. This Court has not previously struck down a districting plan as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, and has struggled without success over the past several decades to discern judicially manageable standards for deciding such claims. The districting plans at issue here are highly partisan, by any measure. The question is whether the courts below appropriately exercised judicial power when they found them unconstitutional as well.

The first case involves a challenge to the congressional redistricting plan enacted by the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly in 2016. Common Cause v. Rucho, No. 18-422. The Republican legislators leading the redistricting effort instructed their mapmaker to use political data to draw [***11]  a map that would produce a congressional delegation of ten Republicans and three Democrats. 318 F. Supp. 3d 777, 807-808  [**939]  (MDNC 2018). As one of the two Republicans chairing the redistricting committee stated, “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.” Id., at 809. He further explained that the map was drawn with the aim of electing ten Republicans and three Democrats because he did “not believe it [would be] possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and 2 Democrats.” Id., at 808. One Democratic state senator objected that entrenching the 10-3 advantage for Republicans was not “fair, reasonable, [or] balanced” because, as recently as 2012, “Democratic congressional candidates had received more votes on a statewide basis than Republican candidates.” Ibid. The General Assembly was not swayed by that objection and approved the 2016 Plan by a party-line vote. Id., at 809.

In November 2016, North Carolina conducted congressional elections using the 2016 Plan, and Republican candidates won 10 of the 13 congressional districts. Id., at 810. In the 2018 elections, Republican candidates won nine congressional districts, while Democratic candidates won three.  [*2492]  The Republican candidate narrowly [***12]  prevailed in the remaining district, but the State Board of Elections called a new election after allegations of fraud.

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139 S. Ct. 2484 *; 204 L. Ed. 2d 931 **; 2019 U.S. LEXIS 4401 ***; 27 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 1119; 2019 WL 2619470

ROBERT A. RUCHO, et al., Appellants v. COMMON CAUSE, et al. (No. 18-422)

Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.

Prior History:  [***1] ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA

Common Cause v. Rucho, 318 F. Supp. 3d 777, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 146635 (M.D.N.C., Aug. 27, 2018)Benisek v. Lamone, 348 F. Supp. 3d 493, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 190292 (D. Md., Nov. 7, 2018)

Disposition: 318 F. Supp. 3d 777 and 348 F. Supp. 3d 493, vacated and remanded.

CORE TERMS

partisan, gerrymandering, elections, map, Republicans, voters, candidates, seats, dilution, redistricting, proportional, plurality, mapmakers, politicians, statewide, baseline, entrench, partisanship, delegation, cracked, packed, predominant, quotation, justiciable, predicted, geography, non-partisan, compactness, disfavored, incumbents

Constitutional Law, The Judiciary, Case or Controversy, Constitutional Questions, Political Questions, Elections, Terms & Voting, Race-Based Voting Restrictions, Equal Protection, Voting Districts & Representatives, Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Justiciability, Relations Among Governments, Republican Form of Government, Governments, Courts, Authority to Adjudicate