The state legislature will have until September 18 to redraw voting districts for the 2020 state House and Senate elections following a ruling from a three-judge panel of the Wake County Superior Court Tuesday in a lawsuit brought last year by Common Cause. 

That lawsuit argued that the districts were unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders that posed an “existential threat to our democracy,” and accused Republicans of “egregiously” rigging districts to guarantee their party perpetual control of both chambers.

In 2018, Republicans won more seats than Democrats despite getting fewer votes, though Democrats were able to break the GOP’s supermajorities. 

The Superior Court panel ruled unanimously that the districts were unconstitutional. The 350-page decision notes that “if unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering is not checked and balanced by judicial oversight, legislators elected under one partisan gerrymander will enact new gerrymanders after each decennial census, entrenching themselves in power anew decade after decade.”

Federal courts have declared the state’s legislative and congressional districts unconstitutional and ordered the General Assembly to redraw several times since they were enacted in 2011. In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the state’s legislative and congressional districts were racial gerrymanders. 

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to declare partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional, as it previously has with racial gerrymandering. This case, however, is being argued under the state constitution, which would mean the state Supreme Court, currently dominated by Democrats, would ultimately decide its fate. 

Soon after the ruling came down, however, Senate leader Phil Berger announced that he would not appeal. Calling the decision the “next step in Eric Holder’s drive to use judges to create a Democratic majority”—referring to the former attorney general’s anti-gerrymandering efforts—Berger said that “nearly a decade of relentless litigation has strained the legitimacy of this state’s institutions, and the relationship between its leaders, to the breaking point. It’s time to move on.”

(Also, he would have lost.)

In a statement, state representative Graig Meyer, an Orange County Democrat, called the decision “a big win for Democracy and a game-changer for 2020.”

This decision could be crucial for Democratic hopes in North Carolina for the next decade. Whichever party controls the General Assembly in 2021 will draw legislative and congressional districts for the next ten years—the governor does not have the authority to veto districts—and with the current maps in place, Democrats have little hope of taking either legislative chamber regardless of how well they do at the polls. 

Contact staff writer Leigh Tauss at 

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One reply on “State Court Orders Gerrymandered NC House and Senate Districts Redrawn”

  1. Celebrate! We might actually sorta get some type of semblance of representation!

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