Republicans won control of the North Carolina Supreme Court and solidified their power in the Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday. Both elections are likely to prove highly consequential for both the redrawing of congressional districts and abortion rights in each state.
The state supreme courts in both North Carolina and Ohio rejected partisan gerrymanders drawn by the Republicans after the 2020 census, although the circumstances were different in each case.
In Ohio, Republicans held a 4-3 majority, but retiring Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor repeatedly sided with the court's three Democrats in rejecting partisan gerrymanders Republicans drew in spite of an anti-gerrymandering ballot initiative in 2018. The state GOP refused to abide by the court's decisions and adopted a temporary map for the 2022 election that is favorable to the party.
Republican Sharon Kennedy, a current justice who voted to keep the GOP gerrymander, defeated Democrat Jennifer Brunner, also a current justice, to win the race to replace O'Connor as chief justice. With two other Republicans ― Pat DeWine and Pat Fischer ― winning reelection, the court now has a four-vote majority likely to support the current GOP gerrymander, or possibly a more extreme one.
Meanwhile, in North Carolina, Democrats previously held a 4-3 majority that selected the current congressional and state legislative maps after rejecting a GOP-backed map as too partisan. But Republicans will now have a 5-2 majority after GOP lawyer Trey Allen defeated incumbent Democrat Sam Ervin IV and Republican Richard Dietz won an open seat previously occupied by another Republican.
Since the current court-selected map applied only to the 2022 election, the GOP-run state legislature and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper will need to agree on a new map in 2023. The legislature and Cooper will most likely again disagree on the shape of the maps, leaving the issue to be decided by the state courts. The new GOP majority is now likely to select a far more friendly map for Republicans.
The Ohio Redistricting Commission repeatedly drew GOP-friendly partisan gerrymanders that were rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court. A new GOP majority could now accept those gerrymanders. (Photo: Julie Carr Smyth via Associated Press)
This will matter for the future composition of the U.S. House, as Democrats picked up GOP-held seats in both Ohio and North Carolina on Tuesday.
The GOP wins will also have significant consequences for abortion rights in both states.
In Ohio, a state judge blocked the near-total abortion ban after finding it is likely to violate the state's constitution. The GOP sweep of the state's Supreme Court races now makes it more likely that the court could eventually side with the GOP-supported policy of banning abortion.
North Carolina, where abortion is still legal until 20 weeks of pregnancy, remains one of the last bastions of abortion access in the South. Republicans appeared to fall short of a supermajority in the legislature by just one seat in the state House. A supermajority would allow them to pass an abortion ban over Cooper's veto.
But the new GOP court majority could help Republicans in more ways than one. First, it could approve a new gerrymandered district map, giving the GOP a supermajority in both the House and the Senate. And, second, it could rule against abortion rights when a case is brought.
Despite Republican victories in North Carolina and Ohio, the races for control of key state supreme courts may not all favor Republicans. Democrats will maintain a 4-3 majority in Michigan after winning one out of two races on Tuesday. Democrats also defended their majority on the Illinois Supreme Court by winning one out of two races. Democrats would increase their majority if they win the other race, where their candidate holds a slim lead. And while it is still too early to call the races in Montana, Democratic-aligned candidates are leading. Abortion was a major issue in all three states.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.
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