While the Supreme Court prepares to rule on a very similar case, a federal appeals court panel has ruled that several districts in North Carolina were drawn unconstitutionally to gain a partisan advantage. That ruling is likely to be stayed pending the outcome of the Wisconsin case, which has already been argued before the Supreme Court, with a ruling now pending.
As I’ve explained before, the Supreme Court has long made a distinction between racial gerrymandering and partisan gerrymandering. They’ve been willing to intervene and order the drawing of new districts in cases where it can be shown that the districts were drawn in order to diminish the influence of racial minorities, but not willing to intervene in cases where they drew the districts in order to gain a partisan advantage. But the new case they’re considering out of Wisconsin could change that. Justice Kennedy has said that he would vote to intervene if there were some way to objectively measure partisan advantage from gerrymandering and the plaintiffs in that case have done exactly that.
A panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional map on Tuesday, condemning it as unconstitutional because Republicans had drawn the map seeking a political advantage.
The ruling was the first time that a federal court had blocked a congressional map because of a partisan gerrymander, and it instantly endangered Republican seats in the coming elections.
Judge James A. Wynn Jr., in a biting 191-page opinion, said that Republicans in North Carolina’s Legislature had been “motivated by invidious partisan intent” as they carried out their obligation in 2016 to divide the state into 13 congressional districts, 10 of which are held by Republicans. The result, Judge Wynn wrote, violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.
I would expect that this ruling may be stayed pending the outcome of the Wisconsin case because they are very similar and the ruling in the latter case will determine whether this appeals court ruling would be upheld or overturned.