Redrawn Congressional Districts Struck DownSpecial to the Peacemaker / January 11, 2018
A federal three-judge panel for North Carolina’s Middle District struck down North Carolina’s 2016 congressional plan as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. That 2016 plan was developed after a federal court invalidated two congressional districts as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. When the N.C. legislature acted to “remedy” that racially gerrymandered plan with an unabashed and admitted partisan gerrymander, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and several voters from across the state filed a lawsuit.
Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said, “A bipartisan three-judge federal panel agreed with us today that partisan gerrymandering is an affront to our Equal Protection Clause. They recognized the egregious nature of what the North Carolina General Assembly did in 2016, purportedly to remedy another unconstitutional congressional redistricting plan.
“We’re enormously gratified on behalf of our clients and all voters in North Carolina that no one will have to endure another congressional election under an unconstitutional map. The court was clear in demanding a real remedy before the 2018 elections, and we expect the General Assembly to respect that order.”
Ruth Greenwood, senior legal counsel, voting rights and redistricting at Campaign Legal Center (CLC) added, “The court handed voters a major victory today by reinforcing the core principle that voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around. North Carolina should take this opportunity to draw a fair map that does not discriminate against voters. And marginalized voters in other states should be encouraged that the courts have adopted a standard for measuring partisan symmetry that can be used to set limits on the practice of gerrymandering nationwide.”
According to the ruling, the North Carolina General Assembly has until January 29 to enact a remedial plan. The federal court plans to employ a special master to draw an alternative remedial plan, and the remedial plan should be enacted before the 2018 congressional elections.
Page 187 of the ruling states, “Having concluded that the 2016 Plan violates the Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and Article I of the Constitution, we now must determine the appropriate remedy. Absent unusual circumstances, “such as where an impending election is imminent and a State’s election machinery is already in progress,” courts should take “appropriate action to insure that no further elections are conducted under the invalid plan.” Reynolds, 377 U.S. at 585. As the 2018 general election remains many months away and the 2018 election cycle has not yet formally begun, we find no such circumstances exist. Accordingly, we enjoin Defendants from conducting any further elections using the 2016 Plan.”