Federal judges ruled Tuesday that North Carolina’s congressional district map drawn by legislative Republicans is illegally gerrymandered because of excessive partisanship that gave the GOP a rock-solid advantage for most seats and must quickly be redone.
The ruling marks the second time this decade that the GOP’s congressional boundaries in the state have been thrown out by a three-judge panel. In 2016, another panel tossed out two majority black congressional districts initially drawn in 2011, saying there was no justification for using race as the predominant factor in forming them. The redrawn map was the basis for a new round of lawsuits.
The latest lawsuit — filed by election advocacy groups and Democrats — said the replacement for the racial gerrymander also contained unlawful partisan gerrymanders. Those who sued argued that Republican legislators went too far when they followed criteria designed to retain the party’s 10-3 majority in the state delegation.
Tuesday’s ruling marks the first time a congressional plan was struck down on partisan gerrymandering claims, according to Allison Riggs, an attorney representing the League of Women Voters of North Carolina and other plaintiffs.
All three judges agreed the “invidious partisanship” in the plan violated the Constitution’s equal protection provision and direction to the state to hold congressional elections because it took the power to elect their representatives away from the people.
“We find that the General Assembly drew and enacted the 2016 plan with intent to subordinate the interests of non-Republican voters and entrench Republican control of North Carolina’s congressional delegation,” U.S. Circuit Court Judge Jim Wynn wrote in the majority opinion. Wynn added that the evidence shows the “plan achieved the General Assembly’s discriminatory partisan objective.”
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