North Carolina Congressional Districts Ruled As Unconstitutional

GOP state Sens. Dan Soucek and Brent Jackson review historical maps of North Carolina’s congressional districts in 2016

GOP state Sens. Dan Soucek and Brent Jackson review historical maps of North Carolina’s congressional districts in 2016

The ruling ordered the General Assembly to redraw district lines by January 24 and said the court would issue its own map if it finds the replacement unsatisfactory. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors. "I don't think it says much about whether the court will find a problem" in other cases.

The decision drew swift rebukes from Republican lawmakers and organizational leaders.

Rendering the decision were Judge James A. Wynn, an appointee of President Barack Obama to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, and U.S. District Court judges W. Earl Britt, a Jimmy Carter appointee, and William L. Osteen Jr., a George W. Bush appointee.

The justices heard arguments in the fall over partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin state legislative districts and could rule in coming months.

There are now two cases at the United States Supreme Court about gerrymandering based on political grounds. Over the ensuing decade, academics worked to provide Kennedy (often the "swing" vote on the high court) with such a standard. Among those celebrating the ruling was Democratic Party activist Jake Quinn who brought one of the lawsuits.

Plaintiffs in Wisconsin used that standard to challenge the state's GOP-drawn map.

In announcing their decision, the three-judge panel for North Carolina's Middle District said: "On its most fundamental level, partisan gerrymandering violates 'the core principle of republican government. that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around'". The ruling could cost the GOP House seats in November's midterm elections if the Supreme Court doesn't delay the decision by the Supreme Court because of other redistricting cases it's now considering.

"We obviously disagree with the ruling", House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters, "and will take it up to the highest court available".

All of North Carolina's 13 congressional districts must be redrawn.

The decision adds to a growing movement to have the Supreme Court finally decide whether partisan gerrymandering can be so extreme as to violate voters' constitutional rights. Republicans now control the White House and both houses of Congress, but the North Carolina ruling puts Republican congressional districts at risk in the 2018 election.

In ruling on the Equal Protection claim, the court reviewed expert testimony in the case at length to consider the claim.

Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina State Treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN, a weekly statewide television discussion of NC.

An overwhelming majority of North Carolina voters support independent redistricting, as shown by a Public Policy Polling survey in April.

As the Maryland case demonstrates, gerrymandering is a bipartisan hobby.

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