GOP vows to fight ruling on North Carolina House districts

Judges rule Pennsylvania can keep congressional map

North Carolina Republicans have gotten quite good at this, as evidenced by the state's 2016 election returns.

Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC politics reporter Rusty Jacobs about the significance of the Federal Courts ruling that North Carolina's congressional maps are unconstitutional.

The majority of a three-judge panel found that North Carolina's congressional map, drawn in 2016 and which helped Republican candidates take 10 of the state's 13 seats in the House of Representatives that year with just 53 percent of the votes, infringed on voters' constitutional rights. The decision was the first striking down of a congressional map on the grounds that it was rigged in favor of a political party.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the judges said the state's congressional districts, proposed in 2016, are unconstitutionally partisan; giving Republicans an advantage over Democrats.

The ruling could have major implications - in North Carolina in the short term, and throughout the country in the long one. Two other separate cases are pending in the state.

"This is a hostile takeover of the North Carolina General Assembly and legislative bodies across the U.S. The unprecedented usurping of legislative authority by Judge Wynn will most certainly be stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court".

The dilemma for the court, as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said during October's oral arguments in the Wisconsin case, Gill v Whitford, is that adjudicating partisan gerrymandering cases will flood the courts.

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The opinion furthermore highlighted the danger of a partisan gerrymander that entrenches one political party in power. Over the ensuing decade, academics worked to provide Kennedy (often the "swing" vote on the high court) with such a standard.

Democrats and the groups that brought the suit applauded the ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin involving state legislative districts.

"Nevertheless, these cases put increasing pressure on the Supreme Court to make a clearer ruling about how lower courts should treat cases of partisan gerrymandering in the future". The state legislature has been ordered to go back and redraw the district lines before the upcoming midterm elections in November. The court said North Carolina lawmakers should produce a new map by January 29, and if the state doesn't act, a special master will take over.

RUSTY JACOBS, BYLINE: A federal court had already found that two of North Carolina's congressional districts drawn in 2011 were illegally racially gerrymandered. North Carolina, was in federal court last week before a separate three-judge panel, though Wynn serves on that panel as well.

Democratic members of Congress reacted with applause as news of the decision percolated through North Carolina's political corners Tuesday.

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

The latest lawsuit, which was filed by election advocacy groups and Democrats, argued Republican legislators went too far when they followed criteria created to retain the party's 10-3 majority in the state delegation. The policy implications of that development would have been profound. And every one of them will come here for a decision on the merits.

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