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Republicans illegally gerrymandered North Carolina's congressional map, federal judges rule

12 January 2018

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

The state is now blocked from moving forward with the 2018 congressional elections using the current map, and and the court gave the legislature two weeks to create a remedial plan.

The North Carolina district court's determination on Tuesday that extreme partisan gerrymandering is, in fact, unconstitutional - violating the Equal Protection Clause, the First Amendment, and the Election Clause of Article I of the Constitution - is likely to gain national significance in the coming months, as the Supreme Court is now considering two similar partisan gerrymandering cases in Wisconsin and Maryland. The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments about the redistricting later this year. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news. The only thing that is clear is that the map is politically gerrymandered - and that is by design.

Rick Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California at Irvine, said that Republicans would likely appeal the decision back to the Supreme Court. Regardless, Tuesday's ruling remains highly significant. The circuit court judges found the map unconstitutional on grounds that it unfairly favored Republicans.

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"Against these many, multifaceted lines of precedent, the First Amendment's applicability to partisan gerrymandering is manifest", Wynn wrote, before concluding the North Carolina plan violated the amendment. He also spoke about the redistricting debate.

The judges ordered the General Assembly to approve another set of districts by 24 January. With filing in congressional races slated to begin February 12, time is of the essence, the court said. Other courts that have struck down maps based on partisan considerations involved state legislative districts.

NC Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Ralph Hise of Mitchell County said lawmakers plan to appeal.

"We're enormously gratified on behalf of our clients and all voters in North Carolina that no one will have to endure another congressional election under an unconstitutional map", Allison Riggs, a senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice which represented the League of Women Voters as a plaintiff in the case, told the News and Observer. A Supreme Court ruling could change the way that electoral districts are drawn around the country. They also deny that their district boundaries are the result of gerrymandering. The court once came close to ruling that such cases were political matters beyond its jurisdiction.

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Accordingly, I have decided that, while the issues determined by the order require final determination by higher courts, this matter can not wait any longer.

Osteen pointed to comments from Tom Hofeller, a go-to mapmaker for Republicans in North Carolina and other states, who acknowledged efforts "to minimize the number of districts in which Democrats would have an opportunity to elect a Democratic candidate". Common Cause prevailed in all of its constitutional claims before the court.

Democrats, fresh off an upset win in deep-red Alabama, are hoping to ride a "blue wave" in this fall's congressional mid-term elections.

Meanwhile, the ruling puts Republicans in a tight spot.

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Republicans illegally gerrymandered North Carolina's congressional map, federal judges rule