According to NBC News, federal judges ruled again on Monday that North Carolina’s congressional map is unconstitutional as Republican lawmakers drew it with “excessive partisanship.” Upon re-examining the case, a three-judge panel reaffirmed their previous decision, ruling in favor of Democrats and election advocacy groups, who contested the district boundaries drawn in 2016 and sued Republican mapmakers to have them changed. In addition, the court suggested that Republican legislature re-draw the maps sometime in the middle of September, just in time for the upcoming midterm elections in November.
U.S. Circuit Judge Jim Wynn, who wrote the majority opinion, said, “In such circumstances, we decline to rule out the possibility that the state should be enjoined from conducting any further congressional elections using the 2016 plan.” However, since midterm election primaries were already held in May, the Supreme Court will not likely start hearing appeals until October, which means the re-drawn maps would be saved for the 2020 election cycle.
In the lawsuit, advocacy groups alleged that GOP-dominated mapmakers had gerrymandered all 13 congressional districts in the state to guarantee a Republican majority.
In January, the same three-judge panel found the congressional map to be “an illegal partisan gerrymander,” which violated the constitution. But in Wisconsin, the Supreme Court rule against redistricting.
According to Wynn’s majority opinion, the constitution “does not allow elected officials to enact laws that distort the marketplace of political ideas so as to intentionally favor certain political beliefs, parties, or candidates and disfavor others.”
In both cases, Wisconsin and North Carolina, Wynn announced that there was evidence to suggest that the congressional districts had been manipulated so that the votes of residents in one district outweighed those of another district.
Wynn and the two other judges, Earl Britt and William Osteen, also deemed the 2016 redistricting plan unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection provision. While Wynn and Britt also claimed that the map was in direct violation of Democrats’ First Amendment rights, Osteen disagreed, writing his own separate opinion.
The executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, Bob Phillips, referred to the ruling as “a historic win for voters, and a significant step towards finally ending gerrymandering.”
The congressional map, however, was only redrawn in 2016 in the first place because the initial 2011 map showed significant racial bias.
“We continue to lament that North Carolina voters now have been deprived of a constitutional congressional districting plan,” Wynn continued, “and, therefore, constitutional representation in Congress — for six years and three election cycles.”