A court in North Carolina on Monday barred the state from holding congressional elections in 2020 using the current Republican-drawn maps, ruling that the state’s 13 U.S. House districts represent “extreme partisan gerrymandering” that is “contrary to the fundamental right of North Carolina citizens to have elections conducted freely and honestly to ascertain, fairly and truthfully, the will of the people.” The three-judge panel issued an preliminary injunction requiring the state Legislature to redraw the current congressional districts, which in 2016 replaced another set of Republican-drawn districts from 2011 that were ruled to be unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.
North Carolina’s current congressional delegation is made up of 10 Republicans and three Democrats, a split that belies the state’s growing Democratic numbers that have increasingly made it a swing state in national elections. The GOP, however, has been more successful at the state level, giving it control of the statehouse, which it’s used to try to give the party an unfair advantage in Washington. “Before the 2012 election cycle, the first to use new maps drawn after the last census, the state’s congressional delegation included seven Democrats and six Republicans. But Republicans won control of the legislature in 2010 and drew new maps for 2012 that favored their party,” the Washington Post reports. “In the 2018 elections, all three winning Democrats won their districts with 70 percent or more of the vote while only one only Republican, who was unopposed, received more than 60 percent of the vote.”
The ruling states that if the Legislature doesn’t come up with new maps by the scheduled March 3 primaries, then it could be compelled to delay the primaries until later in the year. The deadlines for candidates to file to run for office, however, are in December, making the redistricting process even more urgent. There is the chance that the state Republican Party will appeal the decision, although “after losing a separate lawsuit last month over the state legislative lines, GOP lawmakers decided not to appeal that ruling and were able to meet the court’s two-week deadline to draw new maps,” the News & Observer notes. “They did so with unprecedented transparency, as ordered by the court, and many of the new legislative maps passed without much political controversy, although some did attract criticism from Democrats.”