@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Congressional maps expected to stand for 2018 NC elections, despite federal court's gerrymander finding

Posted February 6, 2018 2:45 p.m. EST
Updated February 6, 2018 3:30 p.m. EST

This map shows the new congressional districts drawn during the Feb. 18 redistricting session.

— North Carolina likely won't have to redraw its congressional maps ahead of this year's rapidly approaching elections and will instead use a map that a trio of federal judges recently declared unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court may eventually hear North Carolina's partisan gerrymandering case, as it has one out of Wisconsin and plans to for a case out of Maryland. But the nation's high court declined Tuesday to expedite that process, leaving North Carolina's current congressional map in place just six days before filing begins in congressional races.

This is part of a long saga of redistricting battles in North Carolina, and this map was most recently redrawn in 2016 after federal courts found a racial gerrymander in the way the state's Republican legislative majority drew the lines for two districts.

In correcting that gerrymander, GOP leaders announced that they would make sure the map would continue to elect 10 Republicans and three Democrats to Congress. Partisan gerrymanders, whereby lines are drawn to lump members of one party or another into as few districts as possible so their voting power is diluted elsewhere, have generally been accepted by the courts, while racial gerrymanders have not. That may be changing, though, as the Supreme Court works its way through these cases.

Attorneys for the left-leaning groups challenging North Carolina's maps had hoped the court would move quickly enough in their case to have new maps in place for this year's congressional elections. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, two of the court's more liberal members, disagreed with the court's decision, according to the court's order.

Those seeking to replace the map said Tuesday that they will continue to fight.

"The Supreme Court has the opportunity to adopt the standard for measuring partisan gerrymandering presented to the justices in the Wisconsin case, and by striking down those maps this term have a clear path forward to doing the same in North Carolina," Ruth Greenwood, senior legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center said in an emailed statement. "In both cases, bipartisan panels of judges have found that the gerrymanders are so extreme that they violate the constitution."

State Republican leaders have decried the lower court's decision in this case, as they have in other North Carolina redistricting cases, accusing federal judges of overreaching and of liberal bias.