The Campaign Legal Center and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a complaint today on behalf of the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and numerous individual voters, arguing that North Carolina’s 2016 congressional redistricting plan violates the 1st and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. North Carolina’s 2016 redistricting plan was drafted during a special legislative session after a federal three-judge panel ruled that previous maps were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.
In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court held that partisan gerrymandering claims present a legal controversy that courts could potentially resolve. However, to date, the court has not agreed on an acceptable standard to determine when a partisan gerrymander is unconstitutional.
League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho offers an empirical analysis to demonstrate the extent to which an extreme gerrymander exists. That analysis is called the efficiency gap, which captures the packing and cracking among a plan’s districts in a single number. This is the first case since Whitford v. Gill in Wisconsin to present the efficiency gap as a legal standard to determine if a partisan gerrymander is too extreme.
CLC Executive Director Gerry Hebert released the following statement on the filing:
“When it comes to congressional districts, North Carolina’s are an extreme and egregious partisan gerrymander. Packing and cracking voters in districts based on their political ideology and voting history classifies voters in an invidious manner unrelated to any legitimate legislative objective. Radical partisan gerrymandering like that in this case turns democracy on its head. For the sake of North Carolina voters and voters across our nation, this practice must come to an end. The implementation of our efficiency gap standard would go a long way in ensuring that every voter is entitled to equal protection under the law and having their voice heard.”
Southern Coalition for Social Justice Executive Director Anita Earls released the following statement on the filling:
“The Constitution guarantees everyone’s right to participate equally in an electoral system that does not discriminate against them because of their beliefs. It is clear that the intent and effect of creating North Carolina’s 2016 congressional maps were to manipulate the democratic process. The result disparages voters and ensures that one party can maintain political power even when a majority of the state’s voters do not support them.”
The efficiency gap, developed by Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee, is the difference between the parties’ respective wasted votes in an election, divided by the total number of votes cast. Wasted votes are: (1) any vote cast for a losing candidate; and (2) votes cast for a winning candidate in excess of the number needed to win. More information about wasted votes and how efficiency gaps are calculated is below.
According to the complaint, North Carolina’s efficiency gaps in 2012 and 2014 “exhibited pro-Republican partisan biases larger than 25 percent— by far the worst in North Carolina’s modern history and at the far edge of the nationwide distribution.” (p. 16).
About the Efficiency Gap:
The efficiency gap determines how close a redistricting plan is to reaching partisan symmetry, which means whether or not similarly-situated political parties are treated equally in a redistricting plan. According to the Campaign Legal Center, “[a] lower number means both parties are treated more equally in the way they can convert votes into seats. A higher number means one party has an advantage in the way it translates its vote share into seat share.”