“If at first you don’t succeed…..”
On October 28, 2019 a three-judge Wake County Superior Court panel ordered the Republican-led NC General Assembly to literally go back to the drawing board and redraw new congressional voting district maps before the 2020 election.
That same judicial panel previously ruled against GOP lawmakers’ 2017 legislative districts as a partisan gerrymander that violated the NC Constitution. The judges ordered maps redrawn in two weeks and resubmitted for approval. Republicans did not appeal, choosing instead to meet the deadline in a transparent process.
The panel approved the redrawing of those legislative maps, despite an appeal from Common Cause and the NC Democratic Party that an outside expert should redraw about twenty state House districts, according to the Washington Post. That decision can be appealed by plaintiffs at the risk of delaying the March 2020 primaries; otherwise, the new maps will be used for 2020.
The new ruling on North Carolina’s 13 congressional districts also involves partisan gerrymandering. Democrats filed suit in state court because the U.S. Supreme Court last June refused to rule on the issue, saying that federal courts have no place in what essentially was a “political” question, better suited for state courts. State legislatures are responsible for drawing all state districts, either themselves or, in a few cases, by turning the job over to a nonpartisan redistricting commission.
While state lawmakers were ordered to create new Congressional maps for the 2020 elections, no deadline was set.
Once again Republicans can appeal the ruling, but the question is, will they? In September, with little likelihood of the order being overturned by a state Supreme Court with a six-to-one Democratic majority, they chose not to appeal. They may decide the same again.
Republican legislative leaders are facing the prospect of March 2020 primaries, with filing for state and congressional offices beginning in December. Judges want new maps in place by the December filing deadline; otherwise the state Board of Elections might have to move the March primaries back.
There was no reaction from Republicans at press time, but the NC Democratic Party claimed victory.
“These decisions are major victories for all North Carolinians, who will now elect their legislative and Congressional representatives under fairer maps,” said Wayne Goodwin, NCDP Chair, in a statement. “Voters should choose their representatives not the other way around, and we hope that North Carolina Republicans will finally give up their hyper-partisan, unconstitutional efforts to cling onto power by robbing North Carolinians of free and fair elections.”