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Who has the right to determine congressional maps in a state?

rally to end gerrymandering
Victoria Pickering
A rally to end gerrymandering outside the Supreme Court on March 26, 2019, where justices heard a Maryland and North Carolina case on gerrymandering.

If you’ve followed North Carolina politics at all in the last decade, then you know that gerrymandering has been an especially contentious issue in politics and in the courtroom as numerous versions of Republican maps have been thrown out.

The most recent example was in February. The North Carolina Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that approved of the General Assembly’s legislative and congressional maps. Lawmakers revised the maps. The new legislative districts were approved, but new congressional districts were not. A special master’s congressional map was instead approved for the 2022 elections.

Legislative leaders argue they have the right to make congressional districts as they see fit under a legal doctrine known as the “independent legislature theory.” State courts,
they argue, have no authority in federal districts.

We have two guests today to address this topic. Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue will join co-host Tim Funk in the second half of Inside Politics to make the case against the independent legislature theory. First, we’re going to talk to an attorney in support of the theory.

Jeanette Doran is the general counsel for the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law, which is affiliated with the conservative John Lock Foundation.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.