On Monday, a three-judge panel on the Circuit Court of Appeals ruled North Carolina’s congressional district map as unconstitutionally gerrymandered to favor Republicans.
The judges ruled that they are reluctant to let voting in November take place until a new map is drawn. The court is still uncertain on whether to allow the general assembly to re-draw the map. According to the Washington Post, Republican legislators have stated that the map was redrawn to help Republicans and gives a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats. If the court agrees to give state officials another chance to draw a new map, their plans must be enacted no later than September 17.
This is the second time that North Carolina’s congressional map was ruled as unconstitutional. The same decision was reached in January and made its way to the Supreme Court. However, following the Court’s decision in Wisconsin’s gerrymandering case in June, the Supreme Court sent the North Carolina case back down to the lower court after finding that the plaintiffs did not have grounds to bring a suit.
North Carolina’s congressional map is one of the worst cases of gerrymandering in the country, according to Brennan Center for Justice. North Carolina’s map enables Republicans to take more of the state’s congressional seats, as evidenced by the 2016 election results where Republicans took 10 out of 13 of North Carolina’s congressional seats, despite only winning 53 percent of popular votes.
Since the court ruling can potentially impact which party holds control of the House after the November elections, North Carolina legislators may ask the Supreme Court to step in again. However, since Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s retirement, the Supreme Court only has eight members and a tie vote would leave the lower court’s decisions in place.
The only gerrymandering case that has so far resulted in the redrawing of districts was decided in January by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and upheld in February by the U.S. Supreme Court. In that case, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Pennsylvania’s congressional districts violated the state Constitution, not necessarily the U.S. Constitution, and therefore had to be redrawn. Under the old districts, the GOP held 13 of the state’s 18 seats in the House of Representatives despite the fact that Democrats have almost 800,000 more registered voters than Republicans. The districts have since been redrawn, and the new districts will be in place for the 2018 elections.
Newswire Sources: CNN 8/28/2018, The Washington Post 8/27/2018, The Hill 8/27/2018, Feminist Newswire 6/26/2018, The Washington Post 6/19/2018, The New York Times 6/25/2018, The Washington Post 1/10/2018, Brennan Center for Justice 2017