RALEIGH — A bipartisan three-judge panel has unanimously granted a preliminary injunction that would prevent the 2016 U.S. Congressional maps for North Carolina’s 13 districts to be used in 2020.
The order in Harper vs. Lewis, issued Oct. 28, says that the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly could “act immediately and with all due haste,” to draw new maps in lieu of a summary judgment or trial on the matter.
Barring new maps, the court says that they have the power to move the state’s primaries, including those besides U.S. Congressional elections, from its current schedule. The N.C. primaries are slated for Tuesday, March 3, 2020, with filing for those primaries to take place starting Monday, Dec. 2, just a month from now.
The panel of judges say that the maps — approved in 2016 after 2011 maps were declared illegal racial gerrymanders — exhibit signs of extreme partisan gerrymanders and thus, violate the state constitution.
The order was by N.C. Superior Court Judges Paul Ridgeway, Joseph N. Crosswhite and Alma L. Hinton.
The case of N.C. Congressional districts potentially being a violation of the state constitution comes after a 5-4 split vote – all Republicans for and all Democrats against – by the U.S. Supreme Court in June that declined to make a ruling for or against the N.C. maps. The U.S. Supreme Court said that partisan gerrymanders of a state’s Congressional districts is an issue beyond the reach of the federal court.
Partisan gerrymandering is when a political party draws district lines to give its party an advantage in elections. Out of the 13 congressional districts in North Carolina, Republicans hold a 10-3 edge. As of Oct. 26, there are 2.49 million Democrats, 2.2 million unaffiliated and 2.03 million Republicans registered to vote in North Carolina.