Federal judges declare North Carolina gerrymandering unconstitutional
Federal judges declare North Carolina gerrymandering unconstitutional
Enrique Ramos Lopez iStock
12 January, 2018, 17:41
Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC politics reporter Rusty Jacobs about the significance of the Federal Courts ruling that North Carolina's congressional maps are unconstitutional.
"Every American deserves representation in Washington, but the gerrymandered map struck down by the court today robbed much of the state of a representative voice in the nation's capital", said Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause. When legislators convened to redraw the maps, they were explicit about their intent to favor Republicans, who hold a 10-3 majority in Congress. Already this term, the Supreme Court will consider challenges to gerrymandered maps in Wisconsin, where the legislature also is controlled by Republicans, and in Maryland, where it is controlled by Democrats.
"The structural change plaintiffs seek must come from the political process itself, not the courts", concluded D. Brooks Smith, chief judge of the 3rd Circuit. Ralph Hise, told the Raleigh newspaper that legislative leaders plan to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is one of several cases nationwide involving redistricting.
In a 191-page ruling, a three-judge federal panel said the state legislator responsible for the map had said he drew it to give Republican candidates an advantage. It was the first time federal judges had ruled that a congressional map was unconstitutional because of gerrymandering. Among those celebrating the ruling was Democratic Party activist Jake Quinn who brought one of the lawsuits. The case stemmed from Republican lawmakers' plan affecting election results for the Wisconsin state legislature.
The court's full decision can be read here. The North Carolina case I guess has been considered one of the most egregious ones in the country.
Republicans plan to appeal the decision. The response to the maps was unsurprisingly partisan.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder applauded the judges' decision.
The Supreme Court has never struck down districting maps on a partisan basis due to the lack of a formula to determine excess partisanship.
Last year, federal judges ordered 28 state legislative districts redrawn, ruling those were illegal racial gerrymanders. He proposed his own version, which consists of less-fragmented districts. Finally, the court found that the map violates the Constitution's "grant of authority to "the People" to elect their Representatives"-in other words, rather than choose their representatives, their representatives chose their voters". It also names Gov. Tom Wolf, members of the General Assembly and other state officials.
It saidDavid Lewis, the Republican House redistricting chief, attempted to justify the criteria in a 2016 debate by saying: "I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats". The judges in the North Carolina case have given Republican lawmakers until January 24 to offer replacement maps or yield to an appointed special master.
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