North Carolina Congressional Map Ruled 'An Unconstitutional Partisan Gerrymander'

Editorial: Latest court order signals, again, need for non-partisan redistricting process

It's been alternating Republican and Democratic governors, is represented in the U.S. Senate by a member of each party and voted for each of the last two presidents - Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Donald Trump.

But a better plan, one that could spare this state from this kind of silliness every now and again, would be - as has been suggested - to create an independent and bipartisan commission to oversee the job of drawing all districts for elected office, federal and state.

Republican leaders of the General Assembly are officially asking a court to put a hold on the political gerrymandering decision handed down on Tuesday.

"The structural change plaintiffs seek must come from the political process itself, not the courts", concluded D. Brooks Smith, chief judge of the Third Circuit.

The decision may also lend support to two other challenges to gerrymandering now before the Supreme Court. It is one of several cases nationwide involving redistricting. The judges said Republicans had drawn it to their advantage.

North Carolina Republicans have asked the Supreme Court to block a federal district court's decision to strike down the state's congressional voter map.

This latest lawsuit against the districts was filed by Democrats and election advocacy groups. Those districts were racially gerrymandered, they said.

"I wouldn't read too much into this [federal] decision", Li said.

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As most court-watchers see it, swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy has been quietly encouraging someone to bring him such a test so that he can finally have an excuse to take on gerrymandering.

The congressional maps that were thrown out this week were drafted in a special legislative session in 2016 after the state lost the racial gerrymander cases. He renewed his call for plaintiffs to "abandon their costly legal actions and allow the legislature's examination of reforms to move forward".

States are running insane with partisan redistricting, and the polarized political environment may require an intervention, Bitzer said.

The court heard oral arguments in October on the Wisconsin case and are expected to rule before the term ends in June. "Only the Supreme Court can make the final decision", she said.

Sen. Ralph Hise of Mitchell County, the Senate's Redistricting Committee chairman, said it seemed impossible to draw new maps by the judges' deadline given all of the new restrictions placed on legislators by Tuesday's 200-page ruling. The judge with the dissenting opinion believes gerrymandering will cause voter turnout to decline even further. He proposed his own version, which consists of less-fragmented districts. "So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country". It also names Gov. Wolf, members of the General Assembly and other state officials.

But the process of court approval for any new maps is not scheduled to be finished until after the filing period is scheduled to start.

A Commonwealth Court judge rejected a similar challenge, this one of the basis of the state Constitution, this month. "Having already ignored the prerogatives of the political branches to play the primary role in elections to that degree, it is no surprise that the district court apparently does not even intend to decide which map to impose in time to comply with upcoming voter assignment and filing periods". But some degree of partisanship is acceptable in redistricting, he said.

The plaintiffs "have failed to meet their burden of proving that the 2011 plan, as a piece of legislation, clearly, plainly, and palpably violates the Pennsylvania Constitution", Brobson said in his recommendation on December 29. He presided over a week-long trial focusing on the constitutionality of the map.


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