Gerrymandering Goes to the High Court

PA State Supreme Court hears arguments in gerrymandering case

A federal court ruled North Carolina's electoral map unconstitutional on January 9 because Republicans had drawn the map seeking a partisan advantage.

Republican lawmakers appealed the ruling to the high court. As a result, North Carolina will be forced to redraw the boundaries of its congressional districts. The GOP domination's of the congressional delegation belies North Carolina's recent history as a battleground state. Even though the state swung to Barack Obama in 2008, elected a Democratic governor in 2016 and was only narrowly carried by Donald Trump, its congressional delegation is now not so evenly split.

Filing in U.S. House races in North Carolina is set to run February 12-28, with primaries scheduled for May 8 and the general election November 6. The panel of judges deciding the case, which included a Barack Obama appointee, a Jimmy Carter appointee and a George W. Bush appointee, identified three constitutional violations. The judges also added that Republicans had passed the measure "with the intent of discriminating against voters who favored non-Republican candidates". At the same time, the judges wanted to appoint an independent expert to draw a second map for them to consider. "Today's ruling allows our congressional elections to proceed under the fair and legal maps used in the 2016 elections". The Supreme Court has accepted two cases claiming it is unconstitutional to redraw voting district lines based on partisan considerations and has issued stays in similar situations. Since the court is already dealing with two cases of partisan gerrymandering, and the questions of whether it's permissible and under what circumstances, there's good reason for the court to be suspicious of quickly redrawing boundaries ahead of an election later this year. The decision was not unexpected, because the Supreme Court generally is reluctant to require the drawing of new districts before it has had a chance to review a lower court's ruling that such an action is warranted, especially in an election year.

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Legendary journalist Lyle Denniston has written for us as a contributor since June 2011 and has covered the Supreme Court since 1958.

North Carolina's congressional maps were challenged in two lawsuits by more than two dozen Democratic voters, the North Carolina Democratic Party and other groups.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday stepped into the fight over partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina and put on pause a lower court ruling ordering state lawmakers to re-draw congressional maps by the end of the month while an appeal in the case moves forward.

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