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Federal Judges: NC Congressional Districts Should Be Redrawn

A three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled in favor of plaintiffs Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina on Monday in Common Cause v. Rucho, finding for a second time that the N.C. General Assembly’s gerrymanders of N.C. congressional districts was unconstitutional.

In its August 27 ruling, the U.S. District Court raised the potential of drawing new congressional districts before November’s general election in North Carolina. The judges also raised the option of redrawing the districts and holding a new primary election in November 2018 and a general election in January 2019.

“(I)t may be possible for the State to conduct a general election using a constitutionally compliant districting plan without holding a primary election. Or, it may be viable for the State to conduct a primary election on November 6, 2018, using a constitutionally compliant congressional districting plan, and then conduct a general election sometime before the new Congress is seated in January 2019,” the court wrote.

North Carolina was one of three states that had partisan redistricting cases reach the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018. Following its decision in the Wisconsin case of Gill v. Whitford, the Supreme Court remanded all three cases to lower courts for further proceedings .

The District Court’s order on Monday means that the individual plaintiffs have standing to continue their gerrymandering case against N.C. congressional districts and and current districts meet the court’s “predominance” standard to be redrawn. “We decline to rule out the possibility that the State should be enjoined from conducting any further congressional elections using the 2016 Plan,” the court wrote.

N.C. legislative leaders are expected to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court where the case could be heard next year.

“We the people deserve better. It’s time for state lawmakers to do their part and pass redistricting reform.” –Bob Phillips, Common Cause North Carolina

“While we look forward to having our landmark case now go before the highest court in the land, it’s regrettable that North Carolina voters this November will be voting in congressional districts that have been found unconstitutional,” said Bob Phillips, Common Cause North Carolina executive director. “We the people deserve better. It’s time for state lawmakers to do their part and pass redistricting reform.”

Common Cause v. Rucho was originally consolidated with League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho. In 2016, a federal court ordered the North Carolina General Assembly to redraw the state’s congressional map because two districts were illegal racial gerrymanders. State Rep. David Lewis announced publicly and legislators placed in the official redistricting criteria that maintaining a 10-3 Republican advantage would be a primary goal of the new map.

As it had decided in January, the trial court panel once again determined that the districts violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments along with Article I, section 2 and exceeds the authority granted to the states in Article I, section 4 of the Constitution.