A panel of three federal judges ruled that the congressional district map of North Carolina is gerrymandered to the advantage of Republicans, violating the Constitution, and the courts may require state legislatures to redistrict the map before the midterm elections.
The decision, handed down on Monday, was the result of an unsuccessful appeal made to the Supreme Court by voting-rights advocacy groups and residents of each of North Carolina’s 13 districts after a similar decision was reached in January. The Supreme Court denied the appeal in June, instead redirecting the federal courts to reexamine the case using the precedent set-forth in another gerrymandering case in Wisconsin, Gill v. Whitford.
In doing so, the panel of judges upheld their January decision on Monday, stating that the map was unconstitutional because it was drawn to unfairly give Republicans more representation in the House, according to reports by The Washington Post. (RELATED: Court Strikes Down North Carolina Congressional Map As Unconstitutional)
The decision leaves open-ended questions about the outcome of the impending midterm elections nearly two months away. Currently, Republicans control 10 out of 13 House seats, and redrawing the map this close to the election could give Democrats a chance to snatch up more spots come November, according to reports by The New York Times.
Adding another layer of complexity to the issue is the even split in the Supreme Court, which currently has 8 judges and has yet to fill its vacant spot, although Senate hearings to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick, Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh will begin next week.
North Carolina legislatures are likely to appeal to the Supreme Court, which typically refrains from making sweeping legislative rulings that could affect the outcome of an election so close to the polling date.
The panel of judges has instructed all parties to submit briefs by Friday indicating whether the current map should be used in the upcoming election, according to the court opinion written on behalf of the panel by Judge James A. Wynn Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in North Carolina.
“We continue to lament that North Carolina voters now have been deprived of a constitutional congressional districting plan — and, therefore, constitutional representation in Congress — for six years and three election cycles,” Wynn wrote. “To the extent allowing the General Assembly another opportunity to draw a remedial plan would further delay electing representatives under a constitutional districting plan, that delay weighs heavily against giving the General Assembly another such opportunity,” indicating the court’s leaning against redrawing the map this close to the election.
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