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Fed. Court Ruling on N.C. Redistricting Applauded


Republican NC legislative leaders are petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to stay an order from a three-judge federal court Monday that ruled the state’s congressional districts unconstitutional, and that new redistricting maps be drawn.

The 2-1 ruling in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, found that the congressional districts were skewed because of partisan gerrymandering, and cannot be used beyond the 2018 midterm elections.

In fact, the judges offered a choice – either draw new redistricting maps before the November elections, or hold primaries in November based on new maps, and hold elections in January just before the new Congress is sworn-in.

According to the court decision, led by Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge James A. Wynn Jr., the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly deliberately used “political data” from past elections when it drew its 2016 redistricting maps “… specifying whether, and to what extent, particular voting precincts had favored Republican or Democratic candidates, and therefore were likely to do so in the future — to draw a districting plan that would ensure Republican candidates would prevail in the vast majority of the State’s congressional districts, and would continue to do so in future elections.”

The result, the court said were thirteen North Carolina congressional districts – ten of which elected Republicans, three Democrats, in a state where Democrat and Republican numbers are virtually even.

Irving Joyner, chair of the NCNAACP Legal Redress Committee, and law professor at North Carolina Central University School of Law, applauded the court ruling.

“This is a great consideration and determination by the Court which demonstrates, once again, how extreme this General Assembly has been in its misguided efforts to illegally retain political power for ultra-right wing zealots in our legislature,” Joyner said in a statement. “The Court recognized the unconstitutionality of what the General Assembly did with this partisan restricting and, once again, the people of North Carolina have had to suffer for this misconduct. At the same time, this General Assembly continues to do everything possible to corrupt and diminish the separation of powers in this State and it requires resort to the Court to resist this uncontrolled quest for power by this group of legislators.

The nonpartisan group, Common Cause of North Carolina, a litigant in the case, also hailed the ruling.

“We are pleased that a North Carolina federal court has once again stated what we have long believed, that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional,” said Bob Phillips, Common Cause N.C. executive director.

“This is an historic win for voters, and a significant step towards finally ending gerrymandering.”

On January 9 earlier this year, the federal court initially struck down the 2016 maps drawn by the N.C. legislature as unconstitutional. Republicans filed an emergency stay after the court ruled then that remedial maps should be drawn, hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court would take up the matter. But the High Court didn’t. The case was eventually remanded to the District Court.

At press time, N.C. Republican lawmakers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the federal court order, saying what was being mandated was “simply impossible.”