January 24, 2019

NC Gerrymandered Map Ruled Unconstitutional By Panel Of Judges

13 January 2018, 06:42 | Randall Craig

NC Gerrymandered Map Ruled Unconstitutional By Panel Of Judges

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper blasts 'technologically diabolical gerrymandering' in his home state

The North Carolina case differed somewhat from those in Wisconsin and Maryland because of statements made by Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican who led the redistricting process in 2016 after the federal court ruled that a map drawn in 2011 contained two unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.

Wynn, W. Earl Britt and William L. Osteen Jr. are the three federal judges who on Tuesday rendered North Carolina's congressional district maps unconstitutional in a profoundly important ruling.

This monumental ruling is the first time that federal judges have struck down districts for the U.S. Congress because of partisan gerrymandering.

In the majority opinion, Judge James Wynn, who sits on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, said the state's General Assembly "enacted the plan with the intent of discriminating against voters who favored non-Republican candidates" and ordered a new map be drawn by 5 p.m. on January 24. Districts done in haste - should this ruling stand - will not be ideal, but if they can pass muster from these three judges, citizens can have more confidence in them than they do in the current ones.

North Carolina is so narrowly and deeply divided that, last November, voters ousted a conservative governor in favor of Democrat Roy Cooper - but elected a Republican lieutenant governor as his partner. "Having already ignored the prerogatives of the political branches to play the primary role in elections to that degree, it is no surprise that the district court apparently does not even intend to decide which map to impose in time to comply with upcoming voter assignment and filing periods". It throws a new wrinkle and more uncertainty into the 2018 election cycle in North Carolina a month before candidates were scheduled to file for office.

A different three-judge panel that also includes Wynn is considering state House and state Senatedistricts. They sided with Common Cause and the League of Women Voters in finding that the maps the GOP tilted violated the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment and the Elections Clause.

As long as there are five justices on the Supreme Court who believe partisan gerrymandering can be unconstitutional, she said there's no way North Carolina's plans could be considered constitutional.

New maps were drawn after that and new elections held.

As the clock ticks down on the North Carolina court order, a majority of the judges agreed that if the legislature won't alter the map, they would hire a redistricting expert to draw replacement boundaries.

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