US Supreme Court Declines to Review NC Voting Districts; Sends Districting Map Back to Lower Court for More Work

Published Monday, July 9, 2018 at 2:18 pm

By Tim Gardner

     The United States Supreme Court has announced it will not immediately take on new arguments whether North Carolina Republican lawmakers went too far in 2016 when they redrew the state’s 13 congressional election districts to intentionally give their party a 10 to 3 advantage on partisan redistricting. Instead, the justices are sending the districting map back to a lower court for more work.

     The court’s order follows a ruling June 25 in which it declared that Wisconsin voters who sued over the state’s GOP-drawn legislative districts had not proven they have the right to bring their case in court. The justices ordered the court in North Carolina to examine the same issue.

     That means the challengers will have to persuade the three-judge panel that struck down the congressional districts as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders that a voter in each district suffered harm.

     However, the North Carolina case doesn’t appear to have the same problem the high court identified in the Wisconsin lawsuit. It could return to the Supreme Court quickly, perhaps in time for the term that begins in October. If the courts do not rule on the matter before the November 6 General Election, the current congressional district maps will remain in place.

     Many of the State’s Democrats believe the current congressional districts give the Republican Party a significant and unfair advantage.

     The North Carolina case concerns a congressional districting plan in which 10 seats are held by Republicans and three, by Democrats. Republican lawmakers have declared that they do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.

     “I believe the Supreme Court’s ruling is correct and the manner should be decided by the state’s court system,” said Republican State Representative Josh Dobson, who serves the 85th District of Avery, Mitchell and McDowell counties.

     Dobson added: “I do not think the state’s congressional districts give the Republican Party an unfair advantage. This issue has been pushed around a long time. Hopefully, it will be settled soon by the courts.”

     Last January, a three-judge court found that the map violated the Constitution and ordered the state to come up with a new plan before the 2018 elections. But the Supreme Court delayed enforcement of the court order, mainly because the justices already were considering partisan districting cases from Maryland as well as Wisconsin.

     The redrawing originally occurred because the federal courts concluded that the redistricting plan drawn by Republicans in 2011 contained unconstitutional racial gerrymanders that weakened the influence of black voters.

     Challengers hope to get the case back before the Supreme Court in time to affect the districts used in the 2020 election.

     Mapmaking make it possible to draw election districts that pick up one house in a neighborhood while leaving another out, but critics say the party in power is choosing voters for the candidates instead of the way the constitution intended. There have been calls in North Carolina for the creation of a redistricting process to be done outside the political realm, but no legislation requiring that has been approved.


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