Separate requests from Republicans in North Carolina and Pennsylvania to block the use of new congressional maps adopted by state courts for the 2022 election cycle were denied by the Supreme Court on Monday, allowing the court-drawn voting lines to remain in place.
In both cases, the justices denied GOP officials’ emergency requests to overturn lower court decisions approving the court-drawn districts, which replaced the electoral maps adopted by the Republican-controlled state legislatures of Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
There were no noted dissents from the justices in a brief order declining GOP officials’ emergency request involving Pennsylvania’s new voting lines. However, in the North Carolina case, three conservative justices, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch, stated that the use of the court-approved congressional map would have been halted.
In a dissent, Alito, joined by Thomas and Gorsuch, stated that the Republican state legislators challenging the new voting boundaries will be “deprived of their constitutional prerogative to draw the congressional map in their State,” and that “the public interest will be served if the 2022 congressional elections in North Carolina are held using districts that we eventually determine were unconstitutionally imposed.”
The Supreme Court orders will benefit Democrats in two key battleground states because they will refuse to reinstate state legislature-approved maps that were more favorable to Republicans for the 2022 midterm elections. Democrats are working hard to keep their slim House majority.
In the case of North Carolina’s newly drawn congressional districts, the Republican-led General Assembly adopted new district lines after the state gained a seat in the U.S. House, giving Republicans an advantage for ten of the state’s fourteen seats. Republicans currently control eight seats, while Democrats control five.
However, the North Carolina Supreme Court rejected the map, ruling that it constituted unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, and remanded the case to a state trial court for further proceedings. After rejecting the General Assembly’s redrawn voting boundaries for congressional elections, the North Carolina trial court approved a new map created by a group of special masters and assistants, which gave Republicans six seats to Democrats’ four, according to a Campaign Legal Center analysis. There are four other districts that are more competitive.
Republicans in the state legislature challenged the use of the court-drawn maps, claiming that North Carolina’s high court decided the “manner” in which the state’s congressional elections would be held, usurping the power granted to the state legislature under the election clause of the Constitution.
“It is difficult to imagine a redistricting process more violative of the United States Constitution,” GOP state lawmakers told the Supreme Court in their emergency request for intervention.
They went on: “This court should put an end to the North Carolina judiciary’s usurpation of the General Assembly’s expressly granted constitutional authority to regulate the conduct of congressional elections. Anything less will hand over North Carolina’s 2022 elections to a congressional map that flagrantly violates the US Constitution, rewarding the most audacious judicial activism.”
In the case of Pennsylvania, Democrat Governor Tom Wolf vetoed a map approved by the Republican-led General Assembly, while a group of voters challenged the new lines in state court. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court stepped in and ordered that a congressional map drawn by the state judiciary be used.
Following the 2020 census, the state lost a House seat, and the court-approved map gives Republicans nine seats to Democrats’ eight.
“For the upcoming primary election, the state’s election officials intend to implement this court-selected map and judicially altered calendar,” Pennsylvania officials told the Supreme Court. “However, this course of action is clearly unconstitutional and should be stopped immediately.”