Now two NC congressmen have backed away from anti-gerrymandering brief
Posted September 7
Updated September 8
Raleigh, N.C. — Both North Carolina Republican members of Congress whose names once appeared on a legal brief decrying the ills of partisan gerrymandering have now disavowed the brief, saying they never meant to sign on.
Just what happened is unclear, but on Thursday, 3rd District Congressman Walter Jones joined 11th District Congressman Mark Meadows in saying his name was added to the brief by mistake.
Democratic 4th District Congressman David Price is now the only North Carolina member of Congress backing the brief, which was filed in a potential landmark case challenging the legality of partisan election map drawing. The amicus brief, part of a U.S. Supreme Court case out of Wisconsin, once featured a 50-50 bipartisan mix of 36 current and former members of Congress.
Jones' spokeswoman didn't respond to several messages seeking further information after emailing WRAL News on Thursday evening to request "changes" to an article filed Wednesday. Jones' press office expressed no reservations with the brief when contacted for that story on Wednesday.
Meadows' press secretary said only that "a miscommunication" led to the congressman being included and that Meadows agreed only to review the brief, not sign it.
Attorneys and a spokesman for WilmerHale, the law firm that filed the brief in the case of Gill v. Whitford, declined to comment on what happened.
Meadows' office was the first to step away from the brief, which describes extreme partisan gerrymanders as un-American and undemocratic. Word that the congressman wanted to be removed from the brief didn't come initially from his office, but was forwarded to WRAL News on Thursday morning by state Rep. David Lewis' office.
Lewis, R-Harnett, oversees redistricting for the House Republican majority.
The brief had seemed to put Jones and Meadows at odds with Lewis and other statehouse Republicans who draw not only their own General Assembly districts but also approve North Carolina's congressional districts. As the legislature redrew those congressional districts last year, Lewis said the new map was designed to elect 10 Republicans and three Democrats, "because I do not believe it's possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats."
The state's previous congressional map had been thrown out after the federal courts determined legislators relied too heavily on racial data to draw it, amounting to a racial gerrymander in two districts. Lewis and others made their partisan goals obvious in the redraw as part of a successful strategy to pass muster with the court.
Partisan gerrymanders have been accepted in the past, but that could change if the lawsuit out of Wisconsin is successful. The Supreme Court is slated to hear arguments in October, and a number of prominent politicians, including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, have recently signed onto amicus briefs supporting reform.
An amicus brief is also called a "friend of the court" brief. It's filed by people who aren't involved in a lawsuit but want to weigh in. A separate suit in North Carolina challenges the state's new congressional districts, also on the theory that partisan redistricting must be reined in by the courts.