RALEIGH – Judges have again thrown out district maps, but this time it isn’t based upon a charge of racial gerrymandering. Instead, it gets to the root of the Left’s motivation for charging racial gerrymandering in the first place – it benefits Republicans.
A three judge panel at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina ruled 2-1 that the congressional maps are unconstitutional because they were ‘partisan gerrymanders.’
“The General Assembly expressly directed the legislators and consultant responsible for drawing the 2016 Plan to rely on ‘political data’ — that is, past election results specifying whether, and to what extent, particular voting precincts had favored Republican or Democratic candidates, and therefore were likely to do so in the future — to draw a districting plan that would ensure Republican candidates would prevail in the vast majority of the State’s congressional districts, and would continue to do so in future elections,” the majority opinion stated.
The plaintiffs are the League of Women Voters and Common Cause North Carolina. The latter has been fighting for years to get an “independent” redistricting body in order to eliminate gerrymandering, but we all know that there is no such thing as an independent group of people completely free of bias that could draw perfectly acceptable maps to everyone. The real aim is to have districts that are more favorable to Democrats, just like they were for decades before Republicans took over in 2010.
It should come as no surprise that the two judges writing this opinion are Democrats appointed by President Jimmy Carter and President Barack Obama. The dissenting judge was appointed by President George W. Bush.
While this case had already been ruled on and appealed to the Supreme Court, SCOTUS merely remanded it back to the lower courts to explore if the plaintiffs even had standing on the issue. They did not rule on the issue, and, in fact, there have never been any final Supreme Court rulings on the issue of partisan gerrymandering to date.
The issue is so important because up until now, with hyperventilating Democrats using the judiciary as a weapon to combat Republican electoral wins and policy, partisan gerrymandering has been an accepted practice. Victorious majorities draw maps that favor their continued electoral success, within the confines of the established law.
“While courts have long held that racially motivated gerrymandering is not OK — something North Carolina has run afoul of in the past — the U.S. Supreme Court has avoided tackling the question of partisan gerrymandering. North Carolina was one of three states that had partisan redistricting cases reach the U.S. Supreme Court this year. The Supreme Court sent all three cases back to lower courts for further hearings.
The federal court order released Monday means that the North Carolina case can continue. No matter what happens from this point, the order said, the congressional districts should not be used after this year.
Federal district court judge William L. Osteen Jr., who was appointed by George W. Bush, dissented in parts of the ruling.
Osteen found that the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights were not violated, and he found that the “Constitution does permit consideration by a legislative body of both political and partisan interests in the redistricting case.””
So what’s changed now, after decades of this practice being perfectly acceptable? Republicans won elections, and so Republicans got to draw the maps, an unacceptable reality for Democrats.
(Mind you, that Republicans in North Carolina actually won majorities on similarly gerrymandered state legislative maps drawn by Democrats.)
So what does the ruling mean for elections? The order listed a few options.
“It 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 [Election Day] 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 again, the order can now be appealed to the Supreme Court which may be a long enough process to make redrawing new maps and getting them approved unfeasible.
In any case, the intransigence and litigiousness of Democrats, has again lead to creating chaos mere months before midterm elections. More than just North Carolina, this order can throw a wrench in the entire congress should majorities be in question and the Old North State still not settled.
There will definitely be more to come on this development in the immediate days and weeks, so stay tuned.
Read more about the order and the background here.