North Carolina ordered to redo voting map skewed by partisanship
Jan 11 2018 by Desiree Burns
A panel of judges rejected North Carolina's congressional map Tuesday, deeming it unconstitutional for the setup of its districts.
"The lines that are drawn up to form the districts that candidates run in for state legislature, for Congress, make a big deal of difference in terms of who's gonna win those elections", Wake Forest University professor of political science John Dinan said.
The three-judge panel's decision (pdf) on Tuesday may have been unique in its stand against extreme partisan redistricting, but it was not the first time North Carolina's Republican-drawn congressional map has been struck down for violating the constitutional rights of voters.
Following the 2016 ruling, North Carolina Republicans explicitly looked to structure the state's congressional map to give themselves a "partisan advantage" - resulting in what the Brennan Center for Justice called "one of the worst partisangerrymanders of the decade". Wynn added that the evidence shows the "plan achieved the General Assembly's discriminatory partisan objective". Candidate filing for the November congressional elections begins February 12, with primaries set for early May.
Experts say the shape of districts can, indeed, be an indicator of gerrymandering.
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Through a spokeswoman, Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Ralph Hise of Mitchell County said lawmakers plan to appeal. In the second case, the justices will hear arguments by Maryland Republicans that the Democratic-controlled legislature redrew House districts to flip a Republican-held seat to Democratic control. In May of past year, the Supreme Court ruled 5-3 that the state had drawn their districts illegally by race.
The decision still could reverberate widely, as lawmakers across the country are turning to technology to draw ever-more intricate maps aimed at controlling the outcome of elections. In a separate opinion, District Judge William Osteen wrote that those who sued had failed to prove those rights had been violated.
At the time of the 2016 debate, according to the order, House redistricting chief Rep. David Lewis attempted to justify the criteria by saying "I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats".
During a trial in October in Greensboro, attorneys for Republican mapmakers argued that the plaintiffs had blown the partisanship factor out of proportion, saying aspects like incumbent protection and district compactness were considered. President Donald Trump carried North Carolina in 2016, but the state elected a Democrat as its governor on the same day and in 2008 elected president Barack Obama.
Reps. Michael Speciale, left, and Pat McElraft, right, look over a redistricting map on the floor of the North Carolina House at the Legislative Building in Raleigh on August 28, 2017. Osteen was nominated by President George W. Bush while President Jimmy Carter chose Britt.