North Carolina Supreme Court re-hears case regarding state’s congressional districts

The North Carolina Supreme Court re-heard oral arguments on March 14 in Moore v. Harper, a lawsuit brought by North Carolina House Speaker Timothy K. Moore (R) challenging the state’s congressional district boundaries enacted after the 2020 census. The state’s supreme court had ruled 4-3 in February 2022 that the congressional boundaries the Republican-controlled legislature adopted in November 2021 were unconstitutional and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

On Feb. 23, 2022, the Wake County Superior Court adopted congressional districts that three court-appointed former judges had adopted. The state used those districts for the 2022 elections.

As a result of the 2022 elections, the North Carolina Supreme Court changed partisan control from a 4-3 Democratic majority to a 5-2 Republican majority. In February 2023, that court agreed to re-hear its decision overturning the state’s congressional map.

North Carolina’s legislature had petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in March 2022 to hear a challenge to the state supreme court’s decision. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to the appeal and heard oral argument in the case in December 2022.

The argument before SCOTUS concerned the elections clause in Article I of the U.S. Constitution and whether state legislatures alone are empowered by the Constitution to regulate federal elections without oversight from state courts.

After the North Carolina Supreme Court agreed to re-hear the case, the U.S. Supreme Court directed all parties to file supplemental briefs by March 20 regarding SCOTUS’ jurisdiction. Joseph Ax at Reuters wrote that “If the justices decide they no longer have jurisdiction, they could dismiss the case without issuing a ruling.”

Ax also wrote that the congressional boundaries that the state supreme court overturned “would likely have secured 11 of the state’s 14 congressional seats for Republicans.” In the 2022 elections, Republicans and Democrats won seven U.S. House districts each.

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