The North Carolina state Supreme Court ruled that the GOP-drawn district maps for Congress and the state legislature are unconstitutional Friday with a vote along party lines.
The maps, which were contested by the NC NAACP and Common Cause, would have likely led to a Congressional delegation split 11-3 favoring Republicans, while also paving the way for the GOP to recapture supermajorities in the state legislature. Voting rights advocates have argued that the maps, which did not take into consideration racial data, would have effectively disenfranchised Black North Carolina voters.
The court heard testimony from both sides this week and issued its decision Friday night.
The four Democrats on the state Supreme Court agreed the maps were unconstitutional, while the three Republican justices voted in favor of keeping the maps in place for the primary.
“The General Assembly violates the North Carolina Constitution when it deprives a voter of his or her right to substantially equal voting power on the basis of partisan affiliation,” read the decision from the court’s Democratic majority.
In a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Paul Newby wrote that the court should avoid “smothering […] freedom beneath the robes of judicial despotism.”
“The Court must provide a manageable standard to determine when the proposed redistricting plan is constitutional,” Newby wrote. “The court has failed to do so. The majority’s requirements are so vague as to only allow this Court to ultimately determine a plan’s constitutionality.”
The order allows the legislature to submit new maps by February 18 to allow for the primary to move forward on May 17. The redrawn maps will be reviewed by the same lower court with a Republican majority that upheld the maps before they were appealed to the state Supreme Court, though the other parties involved will be allowed to weigh in with their own proposed replacement maps for the trial court to review, the News & Observer reports. The court must rule on the new maps by February 23.
Governor Cooper praised the court’s decision.
“A healthy democracy requires free elections and the NC Supreme Court is right to order a redraw of unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts,” Cooper said in a statement Friday night. “More work remains and any legislative redraw must reflect the full intent of this decision.”
You can read the full ruling here.
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