North Carolina court strikes down state legislative map

A North Carolina court on Tuesday struck down the state’s current legislative districts for violating the rights of Democratic voters, forcing districts to be withdrawn ahead of the 2020 election.

The three-judge panel’s opinion says that North Carolina’s General Assembly “had a partisan intent to create legislative districts that perpetuated a Republican-controlled” assembly when drawing maps in 2017.

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The redistricting saw the “collective voting strength” of Democrats diluted, resulting in a map that greatly favored Republican candidates.

The court, which consists of two Democrats and one Republican, gave the General Assembly until Sept. 18 to issue remedial maps. The drawing of those maps will be required to occur at public hearings, with “relevant computer screen visible to legislators and public observers.”

The GOP leader in the Senate said his party did not plan to challenge the decision, according to a report in the Raleigh News and Observer.

“We disagree with the court’s ruling as it contradicts the Constitution and binding legal precedent, but we intend to respect the court’s decision and finally put this divisive battle behind us,” said state Sen. Phil Berger, who added that it was time to “move on.”

Republicans have controlled North Carolina’s redistricting process since 2011, when they won majorities in both chambers of the state legislature for the first time since 1870.

Since 2011, the judges noted, Republicans have secured veto-proof majorities in multiple elections despite being nearly neck-and-neck with Democrats in terms of voter registration numbers statewide.

The state court found that this partisan gerrymandering violated North Carolina’s constitution’s guarantee of free and fair elections.

The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the U.S. Constitution prohibits challenges to partisan gerrymandering in federal courts. But the North Carolina case is being litigated solely at the state level. 

North Carolina’s map was previously redrawn for the 2018 election after being struck down for discriminating against black voters.

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