A new political gerrymandering trail is underway in Raleigh today.
Common Cause of North Carolina has sued the Republican leadership of the General Assembly over the state’s legislative maps, saying the GOP drew the districts to ensure they would have majorities in the House and Senate.
Common Cause wants the state’s House and Senate maps to be drawn a different way, possibly by an independent citizen commission.
The trial is expected to feature records and documents from Republican mapmaker Thomas Hofeller, who died last year. His estranged daughter received many of his computer files and turned them over to Common Cause.
The state court ruled Friday some of those files are admissible as evidence in the trial.
Attorney Stanton Jones, representing Common Cause, said Hofeller’s maps protected Republicans.
"2018 was a Democratic wave election," Jones said. "It was big enough to break the seawall that Dr. Hofeller designed to secure Republican super-majorities, but even the 2018 wave couldn’t overcome the stronger seawall that legislative defendants put into place to guarantee themselves at least a majority in both chambers."
But attorney Phil Strach, representing the Republican leadership in the General Assembly, said Common Cause wants proportional representation, in which a party is guaranteed the same percentage of legislative seats as the percentage it receives in the overall vote.
"How do you know what is a fair map politically? There is no way to know what a fair map looks like," Strach said. "The only way you can do that is to impose by judicial fiat some notion of fairness. That would require the court to decide essentially how many Republicans and Democrats should be in the legislature. That is obviously a political issue, not a legal judgement."
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Common Cause in a different gerrymandering case, over North Carolina’s Congressional map.
Today’s trail is being heard by a three-judge panel and could ultimately be decided by the North Carolina Supreme Court.