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NCGOP Lawmakers Argue Voters Have No Right to Fair Elections as They Try to Get Gerrymandering Suit Tossed

Source: WRAL

North Carolina’s political maps, gerrymandered in Republicans’ favor to an extreme degree, were back in court earlier this month as GOP state lawmakers sought to have a lawsuit thrown out because, as they argued, voters have no right to fair elections.

The lawsuit argues that the state constitution guarantees the right to fair elections and the new maps drawn by Republicans violate that promise. Lawyers representing Republican state legislators were in court hoping to have the anti-gerrymandering lawsuit thrown out over their argument that no such right exists because it’s impossible to define what “fair” means, WRAL reported.

Reviews of the new districts conducted by both outside analysts and by the legislature itself, show that the new maps will likely give Republicans large majorities in the state legislature and the state’s delegation that goes to Washington, D.C. – even if Democrats win a majority of the statewide vote.

The new maps, unless ruled unconstitutional, will be used in this year’s elections and every election through at least 2030.

The suit that the GOP’s lawyer was arguing against was filed by a group represented by former Republican Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr and it’s one of numerous lawsuits that have been filed against the new maps in state or federal court. 

When the group of voters Orr is representing filed the lawsuit, they cited a 1964 North Carolina Supreme Court decision – Ponder v. Joslin – that said: “The people are entitled to have their elections conducted honestly and in accordance with the requirements of the law. To require less would result in mockery of the democratic processes for nominating and electing public officials.”

Republican lawmakers have long claimed the legislature has almost unlimited power to draw maps however they please and they made that same argument in court. Phil Strach, the GOP’s lawyer, argued that the state Supreme Court recently ruled that politically motivated gerrymandering is legal.

According to WRAL, Strach criticized the idea that voters have a right to fair elections as “legal gobbledygook” and said that even if the maps are gerrymandered, there’s nothing state courts can do about it. 

“The state Supreme Court has slammed the door shut,” Strach said.

Ahead of the 2022 elections, the then-Democratic-controlled state Supreme Court ruled that the GOP-drawn maps, which featured similarly gerrymandered districts, were unconstitutional. A new right-wing majority won the court in 2023 and, in an unprecedented move, took the step of undoing the previous court’s ruling and gave their approval to partisan gerrymandering.

In his previous capacity as a state Supreme Court justice, Orr was involved in writing a highly important legal opinion on redistricting and has since remained involved in elections law while working in private practice, according to WRAL.

“All the citizens of the state of North Carolina have a right to fair elections. The whole point of the districts is to give an unfair advantage to one side,” said Orr. “… What’s the point of having frequent elections, if the results are pre-ordained?”

Orr has left the Republican Party since his time on the high court and has been vocal in his opposition to the way the court is being operated under its new Republican leadership.

The judges didn’t immediately rule following the hearing. If they allow the lawsuit to go forward, a trial would be set for both sides to present evidence and more detailed arguments.
Click here to read more of WRAL’s coverage of the hearing.

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