North Carolina Judges Say Legislative Districts Are Partisan Gerrymandering

North Carolina Judges Say Legislative Districts Are Partisan Gerrymandering

partisan gerrymandering
Activists at the Supreme Court opposed to partisan gerrymandering hold up representations of congressional districts from North Carolina, left, and Maryland, right, on March 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Three state judges ordered another redraw of North Carolina’s legislative maps on Tuesday, finding them overly partisan, “significantly tainted” and not permitting voters to freely choose their representative, but instead, letting representatives choose voters.

That’s unconstitutional, the judges ruled, and gave the Republican-controlled legislature two weeks to draw new maps. This must be done only during public hearings with computer screens used in the process that are visible to the public, according to WRAL.com.

The ruling will probably be appealed. However North Carolina’s Supreme Court has a 6-1 Democratic majority thanks to Democratic gains after the 2016 and 2018 elections, Daily Kos reported. So this decision will likely hold, which would set a precedent that extreme partisan gerrymandering violates North Carolina’s constitution.

“Every state constitution has provisions similar to North Carolina’s that could be used to challenge partisan gerrymanders so long as there’s a receptive and fair-minded state Supreme Court majority to hear such a case,” Stephen Wolf wrote for Daily Kos.

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On Tuesday, the court found that:

  • “The General Assembly had a partisan intent to create legislative districts that perpetuated a Republican-controlled General Assembly.”
  • “The General Assembly deployed this intent with surgical precision to carefully craft maps that grouped many voters into districts predominantly based upon partisan criteria by packing and cracking Democratic voters to dilute their collective voting strength.”
  • “Partisan intent predominated over all other redistricting criteria resulting in extreme partisan gerrymandered legislative maps.”
  • “The effect of these carefully crafted partisan maps is that, in all but the most unusual election scenarios, the Republican party will control a majority of both chambers of the General Assembly.”

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal courts can’t do anything to stop partisan gerrymandering. Fixing it is up to voters. Activists believe state courts may be a way to challenge partisan gerrymandering, HuffPost reported.

North Carolina Republicans controlled the state’s redistricting process in 2011, and drew congressional and state legislative district lines that significantly benefited GOP lawmakers. Despite winning about half of the statewide vote, Republicans consistently won more than 60 percent of the seats in both the House and Senate. They enjoyed that veto-proof majority until 2018, when Democrats broke it, according to HuffPost.